Monday, March 31, 2008

Redbox Code 03.31.07

Today's free code for a Redbox movie is JM17RS. This code is good for one free movie and you can use it until midnight tonight. Enjoy a free family movie together!

Side Notes:

- If you want to rent more than one movie for free, bring more than one credit/debit card. You can use the same promotional code, you just will need different cards to charge it to. The charge will be zero as long as you return your movie on time for the next day.

- When entering in your free movie code, you need to enter it FIRST before picking the movie. On the very first screen, click the, "Rent with Promo." Enter in the above code and then make your selection- the amount should then total zero.

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Family Night: Earth Hour

I had been looking forward to Earth Hour all week and sharing this experience with my family. We talked to Ethan about why we were celebrating Earth Hour and how much fun we were going to have. Since Earth Hour was between 8-9 PM, it was a special treat for the kids to stay up late and spend the hour with us.


The kids took a bath by candlelight, which they thought was a super fun treat! We filled the tub with lots of bubbles and threw in a couple of whisks and spoons from the kitchen. They whisked up bubbles to their hearts delight and sang fun songs by candlelight.

Ethan thought he looked pretty cool in front of the candles so he took some time out of his busy schedule to pose!

After our baths, we enjoyed a yummy snack while Ryan & I made shadow puppets on the wall for the kids. They thought these were hilarious and super cool!


Ethan had so much fun, he asked if we could celebrate Earth Hour every day! This gave me an opportunity to share with him easy ways he could celebrate AND save the earth. We talked about doing our recycling, turning the lights off when we aren't in a room, and not being wasteful. Since this family night was such a hit, I hope we can do it with the kids again. Not only did the kids have a blast, but it was super frugal, while being extremely memorable for all of us!

Sound Off: Did you celebrate Earth Hour? How did you celebrate it?

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Those Bodacious Blueberry Muffins

This weekend I made Emily's, from the wonderful Loria Family Dialogues, Bodacious Blueberry Muffins for a snack. I happened to have some of my crumb topping in the freezer so I added a sprinkle of that on top of each of these.

Wow! These were delicious! I think I might mix up some of the dry ingredients, just like I do for my dinners in a bag, for a quick snack to take to playgroups or potlucks.

With the crumb topping, they tasted like a yummy Blueberry Buckle- delicious! I hope you can try these and a big thanks to Emily for such a wonderful recipe! Now I just need to convince my children and husband that blueberry muffins are delicious (weird people!)

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sunday Savings

Baby Cheapskate shares how to you can save an additional $1 off of each package of Huggies Jumbo Diapers.

Freebies 4 Mom shares some fun sweepstakes you can enter- check for this every Saturday on her blog!

Mimi's Jewel Box has an entry on how you can get 5 Michael Angelo meals for free (after the purchase of 5 meals).

Money Saving Mom tells you the deals this week for CVS & Walgreens- check here before doing your shopping!

Centsible Shopper tells you how to double-dip your rebates. (Thanks Hooray for Free-bates for this tip!)

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Earth Hour: A Family Night to Remember

On March 29, 2008 at 8 p.m., join millions of people around the world in making a statement about climate change by turning off your lights for Earth Hour, an event created by the World Wildlife Fund.

Earth Hour was created by WWF in Sydney, Australia in 2007, and in one year has grown from an event in one city to a global movement. In 2008, millions of people, businesses, governments and civic organizations in nearly 200 cities around the globe will turn out for Earth Hour. More than 100 cities across North America will participate, including the US flagships–Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix and San Francisco and Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.

We invite everyone throughout North America and around the world to turn off the lights for an hour starting at 8 p.m. (your own local time)–whether at home or at work, with friends and family or solo, in a big city or a small town. You can sign up today!

What will you do when the lights are off? Visit Crunchy Domestic Goddess for some great ideas for a family night or even a date night with your spouse!

We are planning to participate this year and I hope you will join me!

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A Cool Tool for Chores

To go along with our discussion on rewards programs and chores, my husband happened upon Handipoints, an online program that you can utilize to get your kids to accomplish their chores.

It is set up with a virtual world where they earn points to get things for their very own character!

From TechCrunch:

"Founder Viva Chu started Handipoints in January 2007 with the notion that chore charts would be both more fun and more effective if they were moved online. So he created a site with two main parts: one that helped parents track how their kids helped out around the house, and another that consisted of a virtual world on par with the other pseudo-3D services kids have come to enjoy.

These two parts work closely with one another to create sufficient incentives for kids to do their work. When kids successfully complete activities (such as cleaning their room, taking out the trash, or even brushing their teeth and eating an apple), they gain either of two types of points: so-called “handipoints” that can be redeemed for real-world items such as Nerf guns and toys; and “bonus points” that can be used to buy virtual goods in the online world. Parents determine which type of point, and how many of them, is rewarded for good behavior.

Setting up a system for kids to redeem points for physical goods (or money) was easy enough; all they had to do was hook up Amazon’s APIs and create a custom storefront. But a significant effort has gone into creating an entirely new and appealing virtual world, one that’s replete with different settings, activities, items, and other users.

Like Webkinz, kids can walk around the virtual world and talk to each other using canned chat (where you pick statements from a list instead of typing them). This prevents inappropriate behavior. The graphics are impressive and the functionality is rather sophisticated. In addition to buying items and socializing, users can play in-world games and watch movies (these require points, too).

Most of the service’s virtual goods are free, but the company plans on making money through selling premium goods to parents who want to make them available for their kids."

I thought this was such a cool concept that I had to share! This might be a fun way to reward chores for kids in the tween category!


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MomAdvice Weekly Recap 03.28.08

Here is this week's round-up of fun activity. There was a lot going on this week, but lots of great discussion. We talked about our gardens, our parenting woes and solutions, and are still working on all of that spring cleaning. Anyone else feel like their house is going back to square one?

I hope you will check out what we have been up to! Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!


Featured Article:

Spring Cleaning for Today's Mom-
With spring comes all of the beauty of the changing season. We finally began to see our grass; we enjoy seeing the new buds on our trees, and the sweet smell of a good April shower. What also comes along is the dreaded ritual of spring cleaning. Maybe you went through this awful experience as a child. Your mother would be pulling all the linens, washing the drapes, deep cleaning every nook and cranny of your home and then collapse after a full day of cleaning. I don’t remember this as being a fun ritual for our family and have decided to try a different method of cleaning in our own home.... Continue Reading

Blog Entries for Fun & Discussion:

How Does Your Garden Grow? -
I am looking forward to spring, as the snow piles again on the ground, and wanted to discuss gardening plans this year. I also share a list of some great posts that I have read recently on making the most of the gardening season this year... Continue Reading

A Truthful Journey & Then a Party- Next month will be the last credit card payment that I hopefully will ever have to make. I am looking for ideas for throwing a debt-free party and am opening the floor up to you...Continue Reading

Just Call Me Ticketmaster- We are trying a new reward system in our house, thanks to a great reader tip and a fabulous book that I read. We are trying to overcome our discipline problems with some good old-fashioned beatings... just kidding, some positive parenting....Continue Reading

We Need to Work on Our Letters- Ethan is really interested in reading and writing so I shared some things that have worked for us and opened the floor up to discuss what tools you have used to help your children learn to write their letters...Continue Reading

You Discuss: Are Rewards Systems a Bad Idea? - We are having an honest discussion on whether rewards systems are a good tool in parenting? Do you agree with these or not... Continue Reading


Don't miss a single entry and subscribe to my feeds! We have made it easy for you to do it- you are just a click away!

Giving Away the Mother Load!

Another giveaway? Say it isn't so? This time I am picking ten winners for an amazing prize from Duracell! Each winner will win a set of rechargeable batteries and a portable charger. Head over to The Mother Loot and enter today!! Be sure to read our review on their awesome product!

New Real Mom Reviews:

Ticklebug Changing Kit

dunkluv biscotti

Featured Recipe of the Week:

Better Than Pam Spray

Forum Discussions:

This is Spring Break week for my kids. We have been having fun without spending much money. A trip somewhere wasn't an option, so we have been doing something fun here everyday... Join the Discussion

I am a first time mom and my daughter is now almost 17 months old. She is showing just about all the signs that she is ready for potty training. My dilemma is that from now until August this year we are going to be doing a lot of traveling, in the car and by plane, and I am not sure this is the best time to start. We have bought a small potty for her and have been getting her acclimated to it. She continually tries to pull her diaper off and lets us know that she is going pee pee or poo poo. She does not let us know that she has to, only when she is going. I am afraid that with all the traveling it will be too much stress on her and on us to potty train her now. She will also be starting daycare in August for socialization. She just loves other children. What do you guys think??... Join the Discussion


Play it Again, Momma!

Did you miss these posts the first time around? Here they are for your reading pleasure!

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

The Poor & The Sick

Lower Your House Payment

Creative Toy Replacements

How We Accomplish a $50 Grocery Budget


Not enough of me yet?

WSBT: Planning a Cheap Getaway

Frugal Hacks: Quit Being a One Woman Show

Blissfully Domestic: Repurposing the Sandbox

The Daily Special: Spring Cleaning & Healthy Eating

Kenmore: Make Meal Planning Easier

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Kenmore: Make Family Meal Planning Easier

I promised I would share when my first article was up on the Kenmore site and it is finally on there! You can read my tips for making family meal planning easier on their website. I hope that you will find some helpful tips in there for your family!

Next month, I will be sharing tips for green cleaning in the home!

Do you have a question for the make-it-simple team or tips and ideas to share? Send them to makeitsimple@searshc.com. Each month, our experts will respond to select questions and we'll post select user tips and ideas. If we respond to your question or post your tip, you may receive a $10 Sears gift card. Send yours today!

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Freebie Friday: March 28, 2008


A big thanks to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for helping share some of her freebies with our readers. Heather has an awesome website and I love her post this week on using coupons at Bed, Bath, & Beyond or at Linens & Things. Check Heather's site all week long for some excellent freebies!

Health & Beauty

Stetson Fresh (cologne for men)

Food


Fiber One Caramel Delight (Walmart sample)

Entertainment

Children's Songs Personalized with First Name (short list, but check it for your child's name!)

Free admission to Adventures in Travel Expo (Enter promo Code: NGFREE. This is at the Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C from 3/29/08-3/30/08)
Home & Garden

Kohls Save $5 on $5 purchase (when you sign-up for sale alerts)

Swingline Optima Desk Stapler (for taking survey)

Pet Care


Mark your calendars!! Receive a one-on-one beauty makeover from ULTA’s beauty consultants and learn how to get the latest looks with some of the best brands. Plus, you’ll receive deluxe samples from participating brands* to help you start off the season in style. Book your appointment now.
March 28 • Smashbox & NeoStrata
March 29 • Bare Escentuals, MD Formulations & Murad
March 30 • Stila & Fusion Beauty

Mark your calendars!! Starting March 4, 2008, bring the April 2008 cover of Seventeen or a printout of the seventeen.com home page to any Aéropostale store to receive one (1) “Miss Save the World” tank top (approximate retail value: $19.50 each). Forty thousand (40,000) will be given away. One per person. Giveaway ends April 8, 2008. While supplies last.

Mark your calendars!! Free ink refills will be available at Walgreens on April 2, 2008. They do not refill any Epson or Canon cartridges, but they do fill a number of Lexmark, HP, and Dell. Call your local Walgreens to find out if they fill your cartridge. You get 1 color OR black free refill per person so if you need two cartridges filled, bring a friend or you have to pay for the second one. Also, this deal is VERY popular, so don't go in on free day thinking you'll get your cartridge back soon. It's usually returned to you later that day, even up to 24 hours-3+ days for busier stores. (Thank you My Coupons)

Here's to the Heroes!!
Complimentary admission for active duty military representing all five service branches, active members of a reserve or National Guard unit, and/or up to three direct dependants. Valid for one complimentary single-day admission per person, per year, to one of the following Anheuser-Busch Adventure Parks:
o SeaWorld Orlando, San Diego, or San Antonio
o Busch Gardens Tampa Bay or Williamsburg
o Sesame Place
o Aquatica
o Adventure Island
o Water Country USA
Offer valid between 1/1/2008 and 12/31/2008. Operating days and hours vary by park.
Please check with specific park for current operating schedule. Visit their site for more details!

Starting April 8, 2008, bring the May 2008 cover of Seventeen or a printout of the seventeen.com home page to any Steve & Barry’s store to receive one (1) Rose Ring in the color of your choice from the Dear by Amanda Bynes Spring ’08 collection (approximate retail value: $8.98 each). Ten thousand (10,000) will be given away. One per person. Giveaway ends May 8, 2008. While supplies last. Visit their site for more details!

April 12 - YMCA Healthy Kids Day

April 29 - Ben & Jerrys 30th Annual Free Cone Day

April 30 - 31 Cent Scoop Night at Baskin-Robbins to honor America's firefighters

********************************
Another giveaway? Say it isn't so? This time I am picking ten winners for an amazing prize from Duracell! Each winner will win a set of rechargeable batteries and a portable charger. Head over to The Mother Loot and enter today!! Be sure to read our review on their awesome product!

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You Discuss: Are Reward Systems Bad Ideas?

We are having a fun discussion on a rewards program that I have decided to start with my son. You can read our story here and our great day yesterday.

I did get some comments that I thought would be fun to discuss. Trust me, that if you do not agree with implementing a rewards system in your home that I completely respect that. After all, this is our first attempt trying something like this. What I had been doing was not working so that is why we are making these efforts.

Here were some of the questions that people had:

Question:
I had a question that maybe other commenters can help with. Does there come a time where the tangible rewards no longer matter so much and you phase out the charts, etc.? I'm thinking it may take a certain maturity level which would vary widely, I'm sure, but I just wasn't sure if once you start this system you'll be following it for years? Thanks!

Question:
This sounds wonderful and a lot of fun even. But I'm hesitant to try it for 3 reasons so I would LOVE to see more people post how this works out for them.

1) What do you do when tickets aren't enough incentive? Those days compliance just isn't happening? I'd still have to build a whole lot of "just in case" time into our routine?

2) Would this undo the things my son does just because he knows its right to do and make him start thinking there should be a reward for every little thing? When I was having a back problem it was really painful to buckle ds into his booster seat so I bribed him with a toy he'd been wanting (a pokemon ball) - "if you buckle yourself into the car every trip for a week you can have it." A plan born of desperation when I realized I couldn't lean over and pull the buckle across him when I needed to be somewhere and my back was spazzing and I knew he could but was being difficult. When it came time to go pick it out he wanted two. I told him no but he could figure out a way to earn the other one and all of a sudden he wanted to earn it simply by doing things he's been doing "right" all along. So I set another challenge - tying his shoes. For this I pick behaviors/skills I'm pretty sure he is totally capable of but being stubborn about. So when the week of belt-buckling was over and he tried to regress it was "Nu-uh, no way mister, I KNOW you can do it."

3) Is there burn-out with this? My son had a chore chart to earn some things he was pestering me for. It lasted about a week and then he didn't want the things anymore. And when we were taking away toys because he wouldn't pick them up he could earn them back by having a no-timeout day at school but then he wised up, quit losing the toys by cleaning up always but school is still if-y. He even can earn $ for helpful things (beyond things he should be doing for himself anyway) but he just doesn't care about some of that stuff so I find myself having to constantly reinvent praises, consequences, etc. so I've gotten to the point I seem severe because I just don't want to deal with it anymore. I think maybe thats why I like this plan - easy to update and adapt and keep "interesting"?

I don't like where we are though so I'm willing to give anything a try. So I'll be watching this one!

Question:
So what happens when he gets older and is simply doing what he is supposed to, and doesn't get a reward? Should doing those things that are basic daily living activities come with any reward other than that which the activity itself gives? Life deals positive and negative reinforcements, whether we like it or not. Shouldn't the discipline of our children be similar? The idea of making the good and bad consequences known for a task seems to make much more sense for me. Where there is no risk, there is no reward.

My Answer:
I just want to begin by stating that this program and techniques were backed after years and years of research and come straight from the 2008 president of the American Psychological Association and head of the Yale Parenting Center.

This system is focusing on a defiant child who does not want to cooperate in the home. It is meant to reinforce positive behavior in your child.

Our children will all one day have to go out in the real world and get a job. When my son goes to his job, he will be paid for his hard work. If he doesn't go to work, he will lose money and not be able to buy the things he wants. This is the same with this ticket program and will teach him that he will be rewarded for the good things he does, not only with the tickets which will earn him the right to gain a privilege in the home, but also that he will be praised and recognized for the good stuff he is doing. It is a form of positive parenting and I think there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a positive mommy. What I was doing was not working for me.

If the idea of "you do what you are supposed to" works for people, I am all for that! We are talking about parenting a five year old child who isn't doing anything he is supposed to and can become volatile at times when he is forced to do things. I don't intend to give him tickets when he is a teenager, but I think a ticket or reward system is ideal for giving our children the building blocks they need to learn how to behave. My hope is that through a program like this (again with years of research backed on it) that my child will grow up into a successful young man who was raised in a positive environment. Who can fault a family for that?

And what seem daily living activities to us (for example, going to school) are difficult for my son and I am teaching him a positive reward for doing the things he doesn't like or does not want to do. We are teaching him how rewarding it can be to do what we are supposed to!

I would definitely recommend checking out the book, if you are truly interested, because it explains it a lot better than I ever could!

I also want to add that the book does have chapters devoted towards negative behavior and how to deal that. For our age range, it is a time-out where they get no attention at all. Another negative consequence is not getting any tickets or attention for doing bad things.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Daily Special & Free Coffee

Check out my interview on The Daily Special! I am around 2:05 in the segment and I share some tips for spring cleaning and healthy eating!

A big thanks to Elastic Waist for including me on their site!

While you are waiting for that to load, you can pick up some free coffee. A big thank you to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for alerting us that this freebie was available!


PS- I loved that they included a picture of me in my red coat! You know you can't resist!

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Ticket to Slide

I was banking on my son being just like me when I had added Wii & Leapster Games as a smoking deal for 200 tickets. I was the child who couldn't hold a dollar in my pocket for longer than five minutes and, lucky for me, my son is the same exact way. He can't wait to burn through those tickets. We have already cashed in for two bonus bedtime books last night and a rocking game of Chutes & Ladders with mommy this afternoon.

Thursdays are my hard day with Ethan and our mornings on this day are always challenging. Part of the reason has been that they do treasure chest at school with a similar system in place of gold cards (for good behavior) and red cards (for bad behavior) and I think that it bothers him when he doesn't get to go to the treasure chest, as just the star student gets to go. The other reason this morning has been difficult is because it is the last day of school in his week and I think he just tired. I have a hard time myself on Thursdays so I think he would just rather be home.

This morning I tiptoed in and told him it was time to get ready for school. It was the typical no response and pulling the covers over his head. I headed downstairs and made his breakfast and then peeked in again. This time I said, "Ethan, I know this is a hard day for you and I want to reward you for doing your best today. If you get up and get ready, I am going to give you four tickets." His eyes flew open and he rolled over to throw on his clothes. Would you believe that my boy, MY CHILD, was waiting in the car for us before I even had myself or his sister in the car? My child? My child sitting sweetly with his seat belt on, backpack packed, shoes and coat on all by himself. You know what else he said? He said he loved school? My son? My child?

Our other source of difficulty has been leaving places that he enjoys being at. We have had some very embarrassing tantrums at playgroups and family member's homes. We have a playdate planned with my sister tomorrow so I thought I would talk to him about it. In the same rah-rah cheerleader voice, I told him that we were going to go to his cousin's house and I know it is hard to leave there so I want to give him tickets for leaving nicely. He would get four tickets for leaving when I asked. Would you believe that he asked if we could practice it? All the way to school, I pretended like we were leaving and he practiced being sweet.

I know we have only been doing this a few days, but my husband looked at me last night and said, "This is not the same kid." He was running downstairs to feed our cat, scraping his dishes off and resting them by the sink, and picking up his toys without a fight.

Best of all, the tickets he has been redeeming give me time with just him. I feel honored that he wants to spend ten tickets on playing a game with me, not on buying something. I told him how much it meant to me too because it really does.

I want to be a good mom and I try to be a good mom. It is hard for me to share when I feel like I am not being a good mom. I am human though and I struggle. When these moments come along where I feel like we are doing something right...well, it just feels good!

I am so full of hope right now!

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Amy's Notebook 03.27.08

I want to try some of these homemade car cleaning products (@ Gather Little By Little)

I love these frugal Spring Break activities you could do at home (@ Frugal Dad)

This strawberry pie recipe sounds delicious (@ Cake Maker to the Stars)

I love online tutorials- here is one on applying bias tape using your sewing machine (@ Angry Chicken)

This table re-do is too cute- I love the bows at the end (@ Notes from a Cottage Industry)

I love this extra long curtain rod and the look it brings to a room (@ Shelterrific)

I want to try these oatmeal waffles (@ With All I've Been Given)

I am going to make these blueberry muffins (@ The Loria Family Dialogues)

I like these tips for making your own colored sugars (@ The Kitchn)

These buttery cocoa wafers look delicious too (@ Looking Towards Heaven)

This vintage pillowcase lunch bag is the cutest thing ever (@ Oh, Frasson)

I love this paper scroll table and so would my children (@ ohdeedoh)

These are some cute teacher appreciation ideas (@ Skip to My Lou )

This is providing some much needed organization inspiration to our playroom space (@ Nesting Place)

I love this idea for making nature journals (@ Chocolate On My Cranium)

I am breaking out the whisk at bath time (@ Parent Hacks)

Looks like an old-school tuna melt or a grilled portebello sandwich for me for lunch next week (@ Divine Domesticity)

A new hobby I need to learn- knitting baby stuff (@ Frugal Upstate)

Here is another cute idea for a change jar (@ Motherhood for Dummies)

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Just Call Me Ticketmaster

I have been having parenting difficulties with my 5 year-old. He is an extremely sweet boy, but he is extremely strong-willed and he does not like going to school. This has been going on all year, but it has taken an extremely bad turn and he is becoming more physical (and more physically impossible) to battle with to make him go to school. Tuesday morning was the straw that broke the camel's back, because our morning was the worst we had ever had together. I have even found myself having scary Mommy Dearest moments where I am yelling my head off at him and he is hitting me, screaming, and refusing to get in the car. I won't go into all of the trauma, but I dreaded school mornings. He simply did not want to go to school and I did not know what to do. After a tearful talk with his teacher that day, I realized that something needed to change in our house.

Keep in mind that I tried everything that I could- getting him up earlier, eliminating distractions, and giving him warnings that it is nearing time to go, talking to him about what might be bothering him about school, frequent discussions with his teacher about behavior and what could be going on. You know, all the good stuff that the "experts" encourage. No matter what I did though, we were starting our mornings with tears and battles.

I came home on Tuesday feeling defeated. Was it something I did that caused this? Why was I letting my temper get the best of me? Did I fail in disciplining him?

I picked up a book that I got from the library about parenting strong-willed children entitled, "The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child." I sat down and poured a cup of coffee and read, and read, and read. I got excited in that hour about all that I could do as a parent. I realized that I didn't have to be a negative mom, I could be a positive parent. The book was filled with tips on positive parenting and how to create positive solutions for your children. The main focus was on creating a point system for good behavior and focusing on positive praise to get positive results.

Dr. Kazdin suggests implementing a chart in the home to award points to your child for the things you want them to do (in our case, go to school without a fight). His system reminded me of another system that our reader, Jodi, had shared about using raffle tickets and points for completing chores in our awesome chore discussion. Go back to that post and take a peek- her advice was right on par with the good doctor's recommendations.

I piled the kids in the car and forked over a few bucks for raffle tickets and pumped up the program to my son. It was recommended, in the book that I read, to throw in some theater or use your cheerleader voice (depending on what kind of person you were in high school, I guess)

Me: Ethan, We are going to try something NEW!

Ethan: (suspiciously) What kind of new thing?

Me: We are going to get TICKETS for doing GREAT stuff and you can EARN AWESOME THINGS for going to school and doing your chores.

Ethan: (still suspicious) What kind of things?

Me: Oh, whatever kinds of things you like...games, movies, ice cream...

Ethan: I like Wii games

Me: Well, that might be something you could work towards, but um, those are a lot of money...But we can TRY! Rah Rah Sis Boom Bah! Gooooo Team!

That is all it took to get him on board. We sat down and put together a list of activities that I wanted him to do around the house and a list of his rewards. We used a recycled coffee container for official ticket storage and worked all day the next day on putting together a fabulous chart of activities that he could do.

Ethan's chart is a picture chart, since he is not reading just yet. I pulled all of the images from Microsoft's clip art collection. Ethan picked each of the pictures and we cut them out, mounted them on cardboard and wrote number values in the corners of each picture. I have to say, we were both pretty proud with the finished product.

Ethan has one page of things he has to do to earn tickets and two pages of awesome rewards. We have them hanging on the refrigerator and he has been checking it and counting tickets like nuts for the past two days.

Earn Tickets:

Going to School Nicely- 3 tickets
Make My Bed- 1 ticket
Put breakfast dishes in the sink- 1 ticket
Pick up toys before bed- 3 tickets
Go to Bed Nicely- 1 ticket
Feed the cat- 1 ticket
Help Mommy With Laundry- 3 tickets

Rewards:

Get to Read an Extra Book- 5 tickets
Go to the Library- 10 tickets
Pick What to Eat for Dinner- 10 tickets
Get a Movie- 10 tickets
Play a Game With Mom or Dad- 10 tickets
Rent a Video Game- 20 tickets
1 Hour of Computer Time- 25 tickets
Pick and Make a Snack With Mommy- 25 tickets
Go to the Dollar Movie- 30 tickets
Stay up 1 Hour Late- 35 tickets
Get Ice Cream- 35 tickets
Go Bowling- 100 tickets
Wii or Leapster Game- 200 tickets
Go to the Dinosaur Museum- 200 tickets

In the book, they encourage you to not take away points, but tell your child that it is fine if they don't want to do A, B, or C, but they will not get the points they need to get rewards. The book also reviews other forms of punishment, like time-outs and how to make them effective when disciplining your child. There is also an entire system of practicing what you need your child to do (basically acting out the parts of what you want to occur), praising your child for the pretend scenarios, then having them really do, and then rewarding them with points and praise that involve a hug, a high-five, or a pat on the back.

If you are struggling with your child as I have been, you might want to check out the book! The Appendix of the book has a chart divided between age groups for activities that you could add to your charts and fun rewards that your child can earn.

What I truly mean to say though is thank you for all of your invaluable comments. I try to help be a source of encouragement over here, but your systems and thoughtful discussions are such a great encouragement to me as well! Big thanks to Jodi for her thoughtful solution- I hope this will help someone else out there. From one Mommy Dearest to another!

Sound Off: Do you use charts in your house? How do you implement positive parenting in your house?

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Taking A Day Off, But...

I am taking a day off from our spring cleaning series, but you can get lots of ideas for cleaning and printables for your tasks from my post yesterday.

I got an unexpected opportunity to share about going green with my mom's group so I spent yesterday afternoon preparing for that and then spent the evening hanging out with my great friends!

This morning, I got to do an interview with Elastic Waist (which will be posted tomorrow at noon!) and share some tips and ideas for spring cleaning your home. What an honor to score an interview with them! The remainder of my evening was spent preparing for that.

I will finish out this week and then will probably take some time off from the series with spring break approaching and a mini-vacation for me next week!

If you are looking for more material from me today- you can check out my post on Frugal Hacks on simplifying entertaining or find me on Blissfully Domestic sharing ideas for repurposing the sandbox.

PS- Are there any other mommy bloggers heading to NJ for the Johnson & Johnson Camp Baby event? Please let me know! That is where I will be next week!

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We Need to Work On Our Letters

Ethan hands me this piece of paper (shown above)

Ethan:
Well?

Me: What?

Ethan: Read the letter.

Me: Um, what does it say?

Ethan: (big sigh) It says, "Get me some cheese crackers."

Me: I think it needs to say, "Please."

Ethan: I can't spell that word yet.

Me: Well, we will need to work on our letters then.

We are at a fun stage, developmentally speaking, with Ethan. He is taking an interest in writing and putting together words. I can see the beginning stages of reading in our future although the spelling of words can get pretty tedious as we have to write everything out together.

He really enjoys copying words off of boxes and in the books that he reads. The writing backwards thing is still working itself out, but he is doing so much better than he was. I think part of this still has to do with him being left-handed. Just a mommy theory though!

To help Ethan with his letters, we made a trip to the library and found a movie produced by the hooligans who take all my money (also known as the LeapFrog company). The movie is called, "The Letter Factory" and is all about teaching children their letters and their letter sounds.

I popped the movie in and watched the wonders of letters come to life with them. It was smartly written and reminded me of Richard Scarry and his tactics for teaching children their letters. It was so good that I made my husband sit down and watch it with us. We both were in amazement at how well it was written and the smart ways that they helped kids learn their letter sounds. The letter E for example was an old man who made the "Ehhhh" sound. The letter L licked a lollipop and made the "Llll" sound as he licked. In short, it was all the images and learning techniques that made the process of learning their letter sounds fun again.

Emily, at two, has been chanting all of her letter sounds to anyone who will listen. I went to Ethan's parent teacher conference and had the teacher told me that out of all the children in the class, Ethan was the only one who knew all of his letter sounds. He learned all of those from that movie- I can't even take credit for it.

The kids loved it and watched it for three weeks, until it had to be returned to the library. I applied a gift card and Easter money towards the entire five collection set from the company and am eagerly awaiting their arrival as much as my kids.

I thought I would share this experience because I always appreciate when other parents point out to me products that really work, especially when it comes to educating my children. We are just in the beginning stages though and I am sure others have some great recommendations.

Sound Off: As we venture into this new world of reading and spelling, I am interested in finding out what tools you used to help your children. Are there any sites that you frequent for printables? Do you have any book or movie recommendations? How do you foster a love for reading in your kids?

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

WSBT-TV: Planning for a Cheap Getaway

Today on WSBT, I share some tips and tricks for planning an inexpensive getaway with your family. I suggest some frugal alternatives for vacations and ways to make some memories for your family on a budget.

Sound Off: What are your plans this year for Spring Break? How are you making your travels more affordable?

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

Last year was my first year attempting to garden. Despite my black thumb and my so-so efforts to find a good place to plant, I still had plenty of herbs and tomatoes to choose from. I enjoyed a BLT (made with that yummy faux turkey) with a homemade peppermint mocha almost every day of the summer and I was so thankful that I could pick those tomatoes out of my very own yard thankyouverymuch after seeing the prices at the grocery store. Ridiculous!

My dream was to supply the whole block with produce from my garden. Oh the shame, that I only had one bowl of tomatoes on any given day and very little to share. No baskets of produce overflowing, but I was so grateful to have my bowl of tomatoes to enjoy on my salad and for my sandwiches.

Year two and I am looking forward to another year playing in dirt, but this year I am going to make more of an effort and actually dig up some grass for a sunny spot in our yard. The spot I planted in lacked enough sunshine to get the perfect tomatoes although my parsley grew into giant shrubs while basking in all of that shade.

Here are some links I have been enjoying while doing my gardening research:

How to Build a Square Foot Garden (@ Frugal Dad)

Planting a Kitchen Garden (@ The Kitchn)

Recycle Stuff for Your Garden (@ Nature Moms)

Container Gardening (@ Frugal Life)

More on Building a Square Foot Garden (@ Being Frugal)

Time to Start the Seeds (@ You Grow Girl)

A Total Garden Transformation (@ The Lylah Blog)

Make Your Own Compost Bin- Easy (@ Shakyard)



Sound Off: Do you garden? What will you be planting this year? Have the rising grocery prices determined how much you will be doing this year? Share your thoughts!

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Spring Cleaning: Organizing The Bookshelves

Yesterday we spent time organizing our entertainment units and our media. Today we are going to focus on another area common to many family rooms- the bookshelves.

We have two bookshelves in our home and then another bookshelf built-in that resides in our office. I am really good about using our local library though so unless I find a book that I just have to have, I usually limit our book purchases and take advantage of the free service instead.

I worship our library, I would build a shrine to it if I could! I am a big library dork and even subscribe to our libraries blog so I can get the latest information on any books that are coming out or library events. I feel self-confident enough to admit that I am obsessed with my library.

If your home is overrun with books though, there are lots of great sites where you can share and swap books with others. This might be a great way to not add to your collection, but share the collection you already have without buying more.

PaperBack Swap

BookMooch (this site also allows for charitable donations of books to prisoners)

bookins

SwapTree

2Swap

BookCrossing

Frugal Reader

You could also donate these to Goodwill, schools, hospitals, and churches. Call around and see if anyone is interested! If all else fails, check out Freecycle or Craigslist for passing those books on.

Today's Printable:

Spring Cleaning Your Family Room Day Two

In Case You Missed It (Previous Printables):


Spring Cleaning Introductory Page

Spring Cleaning Recipes

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day One

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Two

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Three

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Four

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Five

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Six (newly updated with cabinet instructions)

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day One

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day Two

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day Three

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day Four

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day Five

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day Six

Spring Cleaning Your Family Room Day One

Sound Off: Are you a book collector? Do you use any websites for sharing your books or keep a virtual bookshelf anywhere?

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy Easter, Take Two


Heartwarming, isn't it? The two children holding hands and whispering to each other. Until you realize that they are whispering, "Let's fight the evil forces that try to tell us that eating candy is bad for us. Let's stand together as one army and tell them NO! Our candy consumption will not stop. We will make them crazy. We will cry and scream until midnight each night and then blame them for being tired in the morning. They will not bring us down. They can't force us to not be gluttons. We will hold our tummies in pain and point to them for making our lives miserable."

This is why there are never any pictures of me, "Please honey! Quick take a picture of me with the kids." This is when my children riot against me and cry and throw themselves. Does it really pain them so to be in a picture with me? Am I really that bad of a mom that you can't PRETEND to be happy for one moment with me? Why do I never get to be in any photos? Why do you guys taunt me like this?

No pictures of them together as it was mass chaos as soon as we arrived to our grandparent's house. I will relish these pictures as the Easter clothes were ruined swiftly. Emily proceeded to eat jelly beans and drip purple drool down the front of her dress and face. Ethan decided to take fluorescent markers to the sleeve of his sweater. Don't you know it is my dream to have more clothes to add to the laundry piles? At least we have these sweet moments on camera.

A sweet moment before the purple jelly beans are found. Grandpa stuffed them silly with sugar and waved us off in our car as we took the little sugar fiends home. Isn't that what grandparents do best? I can't wait to be a grandma one day and do the same thing!


We enjoyed a delicious meal fixed by grandma for our gang. These beautiful flowers were her centerpiece- a touch of spring for us as we look out the windows at the snow. Spring can't come soon enough for me!

Happy Easter, Take Two!

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Mommy Interview: Holly Robinson Peete

The Hanes team contacted us to see if we would be interested in interviewing some of their moms from their spokesperson team. They have created a fun resource for parents and picked some amazing parents to represent their brand.

We look forward to sharing some really great mommy interviews with you and to inspire you to try new things with your children... like volunteering!

We got the opportunity to interview Holly Robinson Peete and chat with her about volunteering. Holly is an actress, author, mother, and runs a nonprofit organization, HollyRod, with a mission to help improve the quality of life of people plagued with devastating life circumstances inspired by her father's sad yet inspiring battle with Parkinson's Disease which ultimately took his life in 2002. HollyRod has expanded it's mission recently to include many children's causes focusing more pointedly on improving the quality of life of the children in the Gulf Coast post-Katrina and those who live in several townships of the surrounding areas of Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa.


As a working mother, what is your biggest challenge when it comes to balancing work and motherhood?

Carving out time for myself…If I'm stressed, EVERYONE is stressed! My kids and family are my number one priority, but sometimes I just need to focus on me! When I take time for myself, whether it’s going to a yoga class (it’s amazing what breathing can do!), going to a spa or just walking our dog, I feel recharged, re-balanced and ready to take on anything!

You are a very active volunteer and have made great strides in building and creating your own nonprofit organization. What are some ways that moms can begin adding volunteer work and community outreach to their mommy resumes?

Figure out what issue speaks most loudly to you and focus on that cause. While I encourage any volunteer service, I also think it’s important to take the time to seek out a program you’ll stick with. Ask your place of worship if they have any affiliate activities, search online for local community outreach, or ask friends and family. If you educate yourself before making a decision, you’ll find a cause that feels right and one that you’re more likely to stay committed to.

Also, be realistic about how your volunteer service will fit into your life and don’t offer more than you can give. I strongly believe we all have a responsibility to give back in some shape or form, but as women and mothers, we do have additional time challenges.

Do your children volunteer? How have you been able to show them the importance of making an effort in other people’s lives?


Our children understand how noble philanthropy is and that it is mandatory if you are a 'Peete!' As parents, my husband and I are really trying to live up to the adage that actions speak louder than words. We try to show the kids a world that’s beyond their own lives and most recently took them to the shanty towns of South Africa. We also make sure to volunteer with them and we regularly sponsor Christmas for several families by dressing up like Santa and delivering gifts. I’ve found that volunteering makes our children more aware of the world around them and of themselves.

Can you share with us your favorite family traditions?

Kwanzaa is a beautiful holiday that we love to celebrate. The kids learn more about their culture during those 7 days than they do all year at school.

I also just love my kids’ birthdays. Each year I try and carve out some time for just me and the birthday boy or girl (or twins!) to celebrate and this time is usually spent making something together. We’ve made chocolate chip pancakes, photo collages, string bracelets and special birthday tees. Hanes has the best tees to do this – not only are they super-soft and comfy (not to mention tagless), but they’re the perfect “canvas” to work with. We’ve tie-dyed, puffy painted, used our hands and feet dipped in paint – you name it, we’ve done it! The kids then wear their birthday tees all day and sometimes even to bed (an attempt to prevent another birthday from ending). The one thing I can look forward to when my kids get older is looking back on all their birthday tees!

You and your husband have been together for a long time (especially in Hollywood years)! Do you have any marriage tips for busy and tired moms?

Sexy, spontaneous hotel runs do the trick for us...well... maybe not spontaneous!!!

Sound Off: Do you volunteer with your children? What are their ages and how have you incorporated this into your family?

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Redbox Code 03.24.08

Today's free code for a Redbox movie is LK8LV1. This code is good for one free movie and you can use it until midnight tonight. Enjoy a free family movie together!

Side Notes:

- If you want to rent more than one movie for free, bring more than one credit/debit card. You can use the same promotional code, you just will need different cards to charge it to. The charge will be zero as long as you return your movie on time for the next day.

- When entering in your free movie code, you need to enter it FIRST before picking the movie. On the very first screen, click the, "Rent with Promo." Enter in the above code and then make your selection- the amount should then total zero.

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A Truthful Journey & Then a Party

Circled and etched in my mind for the past four years has been the 17th of each month. I have it circled on my calendar, I get an email reminder that the date is approaching, and the number to make my payment is programmed on my telephone. Yes, American Express and I have had a long relationship together... a relationship that has went on for far longer than I had ever dreamed.

Sometimes when people talk about their debt, they have a period of "fun spending" where they bought great items for themselves and their homes. They reference their shoe collection or expensive furniture that they just had to have and ended up charging them to a card. My debt had no element of fun in it. There was no rush of fun spending and then a feeling of doom and gloom afterwards- it has been doom and gloom all of the way.

The sad thing was that we were doing everything right. We were excellent at saving our money and had socked away well over the recommended amount needed to fund our emergency account. We both worked hard at our jobs and we lived well, but modestly within our means.

The loss of a job, we figured would be an annoying setback, but nothing more than that. The setback went on for almost a year though and sent our world into a tailspin. The only job that replied during my husband's search was in the Midwest and they could offer him less than half what he was making at his current job.

I remember sitting on a moving box and crying, as my son crawled at my feet. I remember the feeling of hopelessness and despair. As we packed, my husband suggested giving away stuff or getting rid of our things so it would be easier for us in the move and I remember telling him that we EARNED our items and that we DESERVED to keep what we had. Yes, everything felt like it had been taken away and I was keeping everything that I owned and no one was going to stop me from that. You could take my husband's job, you could take my car, you could take my house, you could take away my church and my friends- but I was taking EVERYTHING out of that house with me.

As we journeyed to our new home, I peeked at Ethan behind us and looked at my husband's sad face. I was so angry at God and angry at the world for what was happening to us. We had done everything right and here we were...with everything so wrong. I wish, at the time, that I realized that I had everything I needed sitting in that car with me that day. I didn't need that moving van of stuff that represented what I was. These two people who rode in the car with me were everything that I could ever want.

As we settled into our new home, we started our life behind on all of our bills and with over $13K of debt. The kicker was that almost $8K of it was the cost to move all of our belongings cross-country. The rest was my husband's student loans that we had gotten behind on and then the occasional, "Oops, we are overdrawn again" and a frantic writing of checks to ourselves from those convenient checks that they kept sending me.

Finally, one day I decided to not be a victim anymore and decided that I was going to be proactive about tackling our debt. I made a plan for how we would pay everything back and make our financial lives right again. It was a simple technique of snowballing our debts, but just to have a plan made me feel far more liberated and in control then I had felt in years.

We have been working on our financial goals since then, sticking to our plans and meticulously documenting the progress that we have made towards our goals. I am so happy to say that April 17th will be the last date that I have with American Express and I am ending our relationship for good. Our time together was never fun, we never had that great of a relationship- they just always seemed to be at an advantage. Frankly, I am tired of paying for our dates and I am moving on.

In honor of our final payment to the company, I am going to have a wild and crazy party (within our means, of course). I was wondering if anyone had any fun ways to celebrate ridding yourself of credit card debt? I am looking for fun party ideas- cheesy ideas, wild ideas, symbolic ideas for celebrating.

Remember, this is a party that has been four years in the making! I am ready to party like it's 1999...or um, something like that but a little bit hipper.

I can't wait to get your feedback and ideas!

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Spring Cleaning: Week Three, Day One

I had hoped to get more printables done, but Easter festivities prevented me from spending a lot of time working (which is a good thing!)

I feel like I have an Easter hangover today- anyone else feel this way? I think my kids are feeling that way too because we had a difficult morning getting around today.

This week we are spending time tidying our family room. These agendas can be applied to whichever room you would like to concentrate on- the playroom, the family room, the living room, or the den. Whatever you call it, you can use these printables for those rooms and whip them back into shape.

Each task is intended to be one hour long only. That is the beauty of doing these agendas- they are meant to help you work more efficiently with your time instead of a marathon day of cleaning or spending your cleaning time researching how to clean your items.

This is what I have planned for us this week:

1. Organize your entertainment and media center
2. Organize your bookcases
3. Clean and organize children's toys
4. Wash curtains, blinds, swipe baseboards, dust
5. Final tidy- deep clean carpets and vacuum couches & chairs

To save myself some time this week (and resume focus on some other activities on the blog) I will just share pictures at the end of our week and show you what was accomplished, instead of doing daily pictures.

Today's Printable:

Spring Cleaning Your Family Room Day One

In Case You Missed It (Previous Printables):

Spring Cleaning Introductory Page

Spring Cleaning Recipes

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day One

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Two

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Three

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Four

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Five

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Six (newly updated with cabinet instructions)

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day One

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day Two

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day Three

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day Four

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day Five

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day Six

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter at the Clark House

Easter happens a day early in our house, just like Christmas. This gives the kids a chance to really enjoy their baskets, egg hunting, and egg decorating without rushing anywhere.

Our morning (and sugar rush) started bright and early this morning with some good old-fashioned egg hunting. Since it is snowing here, an indoor hunt seemed fitting. We hid all of the eggs last night and filled them with yummy jelly beans. Emily wasted no time getting into hers.

Yummy jelly beans and messy hands and faces ensued. Why do the black ones have to be her favorite color? And why does she hand me half-eaten ones so she can bite into a new one?



Wait! Where did all that candy go?



The baskets were filled to the brim this year with great finds from the Dollar Store. They each had three coloring books, a set of crayons, fruit snacks, graham cracker snacks, paddle balls, bubble bath, and fun scrubbers with animals on them. The paddle balls were the biggest hit (literally!) and we questioned why the Easter Bunny would bring something that could get so tangled.



Time to break out the good dishes- the grandparents are on their way! I made a batch of my cinnamon rolls and some coffee and tea for our morning.



The empty eggs from the egg hunt become the centerpiece for the event. I found these cute speckled eggs at the Dollar Store.


After our breakfast, we start working on decorating our eggs. Emily was in utter awe and thought this part was super cool. Dad is the best at helping with the eggs. He even showed them how to do two colors instead of one.

We end our visit with a game of boxing on the Wii. Ethan challenges his grandpa to a fast game and wins victorious in the end. What can we say? We're Clarks and we like to win! We are glad that our grandparents are such great sports!

Happy Easter from the Clark house to yours!

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Progress Report: Day Five in the Bathroom

My second bathroom is all clean and tidy. I washed the floors, cleaned the baseboards, cleared items from the ledge (a catch-all for a lot of stuff), recycled the old magazines, and swiped everything down.


The sink is all clean and tidy and I put a fresh hand towel out for our guests. My parents are coming over for the day so I wanted to get this done before their visit.




Can anyone guess where I shoved all those extra towels from my upstairs linen closet? Not necessarily ideal, but I can't part with perfectly good towels. I figured they would be nice and safe in here until we need them. These will be a great back-up if I get behind on our laundry!

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Target- How Do I Love Thee?


It is cold and dark outside so I have to use my flash for these pictures which makes them hideous looking, but bear with me! When I went to Target, I happened upon these sweet little things. Aren't they so cute? They are about the size of a wallet and have pretty Target trees on them with little birds. They are super compact and I can fit three of them easily in my purse.



Unzip and unfold... behold their glory! A full size grocery bag. Say what? How cool is that? Did I mention that three of these will easily fit in my purse.

And...let's say that you went on a trip and you didn't want to carry a purse, but you had some unmentionable items that you had to carry with you. You could tuck these inside with it all folded up and no one would be the wiser (just remember to remove the stuff before grocery shopping). Oh, and did I mention that these are $.99? Heaven!


Let's just say that you are one of THOSE KINDS OF PEOPLE, and you like everything to be all matchy-matchy in your life. Maybe you thought to yourself that carrying these cute grocery bags would look super cute with your red shoes?

And then you thought about that amazing red coat you purchased with the amazing lining that would match perfectly with your red Target bags and you were like, "OH MY GOSH! How cute am I going to look with all my matchy-match stuff!" And your husband and family totally didn't get it AT ALL, but you knew someone out there in the internet world thought, "Wow, won't that look cute with her red shoes and red coat!" And you happened to pat yourself on the back because you knew you had such great girlfriends who would understand.




I also found over in the housewares section, they had these cute placemats for $.99 for TWO placemats. They wipe off and they look so cute and modern in my kitchen. I have a thing for red these days and these make me happy. I got six of them for my kitchen table (less than $3 in all!) I just love this print!

And then I thought how cute these would look with a basket of red apples with just a few green in there to bring out the green in the placement. And then I thought, "Wouldn't it look just like a pretty portrait if I sat in a chair and ate my red apples with the hint of green that I removed from my cute red bag and sat down at that table with the cute placemat and kicked up my red shoes with my red coat draped behind me?" I think that sounds like a portrait, don't you?

Or am I taking this too far? Maybe I need a label on my blog for dork moments? Hmm...

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Freebie Friday: March 21, 2008

A big thank you to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, who helped supply our list of freebies this week. She does such an amazing job keeping everyone up-to-date on the latest freebies. Check her site regularly to access all the latest freebies!


Health & Beauty

Colgate Total toothpaste (Walmart sample)

Redken (for those with curly hair)

Degree deodorant (free sample with sweepstakes entry)

Dexatrim Max2O (Walmart sample)

Ultra XCID Antacid (Walmart sample)

Men's Rogaine Foam

Dial Antibacterial Soap

Free antibotics from Publix (thank you to our reader, Colleen, for sending me that one!)

Food
Entertainment

Drop Everything And Read Day Kit (from Beverly Cleary)

John Adams Greeting Card (customize w/photos, includes 2-way postage)

Bridal Guide Magazine (1 free issue from StartSampling)

CosmoGirl and Seventeen magazines (3 free issues from StartSampling)

Free admission to Adventures in Travel Expo (Enter promo Code: NGFREE. This is at the Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C from 3/29/08-3/30/08)

Two Free Tickets to a March 22nd New Jersey Nets Game or a March 26th Chicago Bulls Game (you will want to pick the tickets up to guarantee your seat)

$5 Amazon Gift Card for TiVo Subscribers- With your TiVo remote Press the TiVo button
Then scroll down to “Showcases & TV Guide” and select “Corolla the X”
Then select “Get a $5 Amazon.com Gift Card” TiVo members can opt in to receive a $5 Amazon.com gift card via email within 2 weeks. This offer will be available to the first 5,000 viewers, who respond to this offer, beginning March 20 thru March 26, and available to the next 5,000 viewers, who respond to this offer, from March 27 thru April 2. Limit one gift card per household. To get your gift card, your TiVo must be activated and subscribed to the TiVo service and must also be hooked up to either an active phone line or your broadband network.

Michigan Guide & Travel Maps
Pet Care

PetPlace.com eCourses ("5 Habits of Highly Effective Dog Owners" and "10 Habits of Cat Crazy People"

Mark your calendars!! YMCA Healthy Kids Day on April 12

Mark your calendars!!
Receive a one-on-one beauty makeover from ULTA’s beauty consultants and learn how to get the latest looks with some of the best brands. Plus, you’ll receive deluxe samples from participating brands* to help you start off the season in style. Book your appointment now.
March 28 • Smashbox & NeoStrata
March 29 • Bare Escentuals, MD Formulations & Murad
March 30 • Stila & Fusion Beauty

Mark your calendars!! Starting March 4, 2008, bring the April 2008 cover of Seventeen or a printout of the seventeen.com home page to any Aéropostale store to receive one (1) “Miss Save the World” tank top (approximate retail value: $19.50 each). Forty thousand (40,000) will be given away. One per person. Giveaway ends April 8, 2008. While supplies last.

Mark your calendars!! Free ink refills will be available at Walgreens on April 2, 2008. They do not refill any Epson or Canon cartridges, but they do fill a number of Lexmark, HP, and Dell. Call your local Walgreens to find out if they fill your cartridge. You get 1 color OR black free refill per person so if you need two cartridges filled, bring a friend or you have to pay for the second one. Also, this deal is VERY popular, so don't go in on free day thinking you'll get your cartridge back soon. It's usually returned to you later that day, even up to 24 hours-3+ days for busier stores. (Thank you My Coupons)

Here's to the Heroes!!
Complimentary admission for active duty military representing all five service branches, active members of a reserve or National Guard unit, and/or up to three direct dependants. Valid for one complimentary single-day admission per person, per year, to one of the following Anheuser-Busch Adventure Parks:
o SeaWorld Orlando, San Diego, or San Antonio
o Busch Gardens Tampa Bay or Williamsburg
o Sesame Place
o Aquatica
o Adventure Island
o Water Country USA
Offer valid between 1/1/2008 and 12/31/2008. Operating days and hours vary by park.
Please check with specific park for current operating schedule. Visit their site for more details!
********************************
Another giveaway? Say it isn't so? This time I am picking ten winners for an amazing prize from Duracell! Each winner will win a set of rechargeable batteries and a portable charger. Head over to The Mother Loot and enter today!! Be sure to read our review on their awesome product!

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MomAdvice Weekly Recap: 03.20.08


I apologize that this was a slow week on the blogging for me. The printables, a cold, and a promotional event for Kenmore slowed down the MomAdvice.com factory a bit. I am hoping to take this weekend to get back on track and work on some other things too. I appreciate your patience and hope that you will check back next week for some more fun and discussion!

Featured Article:

Budget-Minded Easter Celebrations-
Easter is one of the holidays where you just don’t need to spend a bundle to have a memorable celebration. Take a few hints from us and learn how to have a budget-minded Easter celebration, while celebrating the holiday in style... Continue Reading

Blog Entries for Fun & Discussion:

Incomplete Projects-
We had a fun discussion going on The Grocery Game and my sewing lessons and I dropped the ball. I decided that neither activities, at this point, were worth the time and effort. Yup, I continue to be an Aldi shopper and a die-hard thrift sale shopper instead of making my own clothes or cutting coupons... Continue Reading

Spring Cleaning the Bathroom- We tackled our kitchens and now we are tackling another area in our home... our bathrooms! I also begin to question my own sanity on why in the world I thought doing this many printables was a good idea... Continue Reading


Don't miss a single entry and subscribe to my feeds! We have made it easy for you to do it- you are just a click away!

Giving Away the Mother Load!

Another giveaway? Say it isn't so? This time I am picking ten winners for an amazing prize from Duracell! Each winner will win a set of rechargeable batteries and a portable charger. Head over to The Mother Loot and enter today!! Be sure to read our review on their awesome product!


Featured Recipe of the Week:

Buttery Bread Machine Rolls

Forum Discussions:

My son's crib must be an unusually large one because none of the crib sheets that are supposed to fit "standard sized" cribs fit his mattress. I have ripped many sheets trying to get them on. I tried buying twin sheets because I was desperate and but those are just too big. I can't seem to find a sheet made for extra large crib mattresses. Any suggestions or advice on finding sheets that fit large cribs?... Join the Discussion

Hi ladies! What's Easter day like at your house? What are your traditions? Do you have a special Easter dinner? Does the easter bunny come? Do you attend an Easter service?... Join the Discussion


Play it Again, Momma! (A Spring Cleaning Edition)

Did you miss these posts the first time around? Here they are for your reading pleasure!

Repurposed the Sandbox

When Do You Have the Talk?

Schedule a Day In Your Kitchen

Homeschooling on a Budget

How We Accomplish a $50 Grocery Budget


Not enough of me yet?

WSBT: Easter on a Budget

Frugal Hacks: Does Your Thriftiness Impact Entertaining?

Blissfully Domestic: Old School Momma Declares War

Blissfully Domestic: Making Books Come to Life

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Progress Report: Day Four in the Bathroom


Today I worked on the finishing touches in our upstairs bathroom. I washed and ironed our shower curtain (a new one because I accidentally got hair color on our old one) and replaced our shower liner with a new one.

I wiped down the bathroom and deep cleaned my floors. The magazines have been recycled and new magazines were added to a basket next to the toilet. I threw in a couple of rolls of toilet paper while I was over in that corner. The bathroom trash was emptied and swiped down. Baseboards were wiped as well as the outside of our cabinet.

Just a few weeks ago, I had put fresh caulk on the tub and that is why I had included it in our activities. It just made my tub looks so new and so fresh- what an economical solution for making something look nice again Right now my vinegar is doing some action on my fixtures- I will pull these off in the morning.

I put out a fresh bar of soap for our guests and I stuck the toothbrush holder in the dishwasher for a deep cleaning. I stuck the toothbrushes in my creamer dish and I actually think they look pretty cute in there. If I don't get the toothbrush holder as clean as I would like, I might just keep them in that!

Of all the work I did in the bathroom though, the linen closet is my shining glory! I have to hold myself back from opening and standing in front of it for a good five minutes. It has brought me a lot of pleasure to see this area in my home all neat and organized.

I will share pictures from my other bathroom tomorrow! I am really pleased with my progress in our upstairs bathroom. This is my least favorite room in the house because I need to rip out the wallpaper and paint, but at least it can be clean until I can accomplish that home improvement project!

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Amy's Notebook 03.20.08


These knitted Easter eggs are so cute (@ The Purl Bee)

Aren't these secret pocket Easter eggs precious? (@ Sew, Mama, Sew!)

I love this printable CVS planning sheet (@ The Sparrow's Nest)

I will have to make this pecan pie for my dad (@ Shelterrific)

Here are some great Easter hacks for the kids (@ Parent Hacks)

I love this spice label craft that you can do with your kids (@ Plum Pudding)

This monthly photo idea is so amazing (@ Ohdeedoh)

I want to remove our popcorn ceiling (@ DIY Maven)

I love these extension cord holders (@ Apartment Therapy)

I forgot about this fresh bread color coding(@ Frugal for Life)

I feel even more green now that I have been spring cleaning & decluttering (@ Unclutterer)

This carrot bundt cake looks delicious (@ Baking Bites)

I love these ideas for what to do with tea towels (@ Apartment Therapy)

This looks like another great Easter round-up (@ The Felt Mouse)

Even more fun Easter egg ideas (@ Crafty Daisies)

******************************************

Another giveaway? Say it isn't so? This time I am picking ten winners for an amazing prize from Duracell! Each winner will win a set of rechargeable batteries and a portable charger. Head over to The Mother Loot and enter today!! Be sure to read our review on their awesome product!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spring Cleaning: Week Two, Days 4-6

Here are the next three days of activities for spring cleaning our bathrooms. I have made a lot of progress towards organizing the bathroom and these last three days focus more on the cleaning aspect for this space (which my bathroom desperately needs). This will wrap up our time in the bathroom so we can work on other projects.

I was thinking we could focus on our living room/playroom space after this! Let me know what you think!


Today's Printables:

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day Four

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day Five

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day Six

In Case You Missed It (Previous Printables):

Spring Cleaning Introductory Page

Spring Cleaning Recipes

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day One

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Two

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Three

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Four

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Five

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Six (newly updated with cabinet instructions)

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day One

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day Two

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day Three

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Progress Report: Day Three in the Bathroom


I have no pictures from my weeding out day because all of the items already got dropped off to Goodwill! Whoohoo! We were able to unload a lot and downsized the amount of items in our bathroom.

I am behind on putting together our printables for these next three days, but I promise to put something up by this evening. I am running a little ragged from a head cold and a day of work for Kenmore yesterday.

They brought their whole team in to their headquarters (in Chicago) and we all had tables set up with things that represented our specialties on advice. I got to share about our spring cleaning challenge and making your own cleaners for your house. People seemed to really love it and I hope we will have lots of new visitors to our site since I handed out over a hundred business cards to the folks that stopped by my table. One hour spring cleaning challenges seemed to appeal to people so I hope we will have lots of new guests to join us in our mission to organize.

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ReadyMade Magazine

Sign up for a free 2 year subscription to ReadyMade Magazine! This is one of those magazines that I would love to get, but don't want to pay for a subscription to! I can't wait to enjoy this magazine for free!

Hat tip to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for sending this to me today! Don't you just love her? Gotta love a woman who can appreciate a good freebie! She thought it would fit well with our spring cleaning feature that we have been doing here.

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Incomplete Projects- The Grocery Game & Sewing Classes

I have a couple little loose ends to wrap on a couple of blog projects that I was sharing on. I did manage to complete four sewing classes and this is my finished apron pictured here. I decided not to continue taking more classes because of the expense and the limited time that I have available. The good news is that I learned how to use my sewing machine and I can (sort of) sewing a straight line. My mother-in-law has offered additional classes for me (free of charge) and we plan to make a field trip to the fabric store so I can get over being intimidated by what types of fabrics I can use or what fabrics I shouldn't use for certain projects.

The other project I had been working on was The Grocery Game and how much I could save my family using it.

Here is what I learned:

- My area had a limited amount of grocery stores listed and, honestly, they only offered one store near me that I was interested in really shopping at for the membership (our local Meijer)

- I found that I shopped more often and was spending more money than I typically would on my grocery budget. While I was able to score some great deals, I felt pressured to shop more than my typical bi-weekly or monthly shopping schedule.

- I did not see a big savings compared to my regular Aldi shopping and typical stockpiling of discounted items at stores. This is not to say that the savings weren't there, but for someone who does make almost everything we eat and rarely buys convenience foods, the deals weren't as great for what I needed and rarely beat the great prices at Aldi.

Despite not wanting to continue with the program, I will say that I am more aware of the coupons and am focusing more on my flier research and pricing. I had not been doing that as often and trying this grocery program helped me to get more focused on how much I was spending on foods and helped me get my price book up-to-date.

All in all, both were fun experiences and challenged me as a homemaker! I wouldn't say I failed at the experiments, but I think my limited time really has started shedding light on where I really want to spend my time and focus my energies on.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

WSBT-TV: Easter on a Budget

Today on WSBT, I shared some tips and ideas for making Easter special on a budget. You can even get a sneak peek at what our kids will be wearing and how we manage to dress them well on a budget. This discussion goes along with our article, "Budget-Minded Easter Celebrations."

Thank you for all your great comments today. I have been out of town since 5:30 this morning (a business trip to Chicago for the day) and just got home this evening. I can't wait to catch up on all of my blog reading tomorrow and share more tips and ideas for our spring cleaning too!

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Progress Report: Day Two in the Bathroom

Day two was much easier for me than day one in spring cleaning my bathroom. I am pretty good about keeping our medications up to date, but I did need to gather everything and get it back in one location.

My medications are grouped by types of illness. I started doing this after I had a couple of nights where I was trying to hunt for medicines and was having trouble finding what I needed. Our drawers are labeled for stomach medications, pain relief/prescription medication, and cold/flu medications. I use a three drawer container for these to make things easier to find. This is located in a dark & cool place in my linen closet on a super high shelf!

We also have a "sniffle kit" for when someone in our family comes down with a cold. In the kit is a little container of tissues, cough drops, Vicks vapor rub, nasal spray, and nose suckers (for little ones). The kit is put together in a smaller container for those occasions. I am, in fact, using it as we speak!

Sound Off: Do you have a system for organizing your medications?

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Redbox Code 03.17.08

Editor's Note: For some reason, I am having problems with my email and have not received any messages since Friday. We are trying to figure out what the problem is so I apologize if I haven't gotten back to you on a message. Please know that we are still trying to work out the kinks and I promise to reply to messages once this has been figured out.

Today's free code for a Redbox movie is 92X7WF. This code is good for one free movie and you can use it until midnight tonight. Enjoy a free family movie together!

Side Notes:

- If you want to rent more than one movie for free, bring more than one credit/debit card. You can use the same promotional code, you just will need different cards to charge it to. The charge will be zero as long as you return your movie on time for the next day.

- When entering in your free movie code, you need to enter it FIRST before picking the movie. On the very first screen, click the, "Rent with Promo." Enter in the above code and then make your selection- the amount should then total zero.

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Progress Report: Day One in the Bathroom

Confession time! I hate throwing away things that I think are "perfectly good" especially when it comes to my beauty supplies. I have a feeling that I am going to be one of those kind of old ladies that saves a lot of "perfectly good" stuff that will drive my children crazy someday.

Needless to say, I had an entire trash bag of stuff to throw out, filled to the brim with old beauty supplies. I had saved stuff even from high school that I thought was worth saving. Obviously, the gravity of my drugstore addictions coupled with my need to save everything created a lot more than an hour's worth of work for me.

Pictured above are my dish tubs that I have used to store everything. I have four of these- Essentials, Bath & Beauty, Hair Products, & First Aid. I had them labeled with my label maker, but the labels kept falling off and they didn't look as pretty as I would have liked.

I used some ribbon and gift tags from my craft supplies and just used a hot glue gun to secure the ribbon around the outside of these. This was a practical solution for making them look cute, but didn't require me to spend any money. I love the look of wicker baskets, but I wasn't willing to spend the money on this investment right now. Besides, the dish tubs are so easy to rinse out if anything gets spilled or if they get dingy.

I made a commitment to myself that I would only keep products that were worth keeping and that would fit in my newly organized space. Three of the bins went into my linen closet, after it been throughly swiped, and the bin of my essential items (stuff I need for every day) went underneath our sink so I could grab it and get ready for the morning.

I refolded and sorted our towels while I was in there and relocated some towels that we didn't need in our closet to make it a little more spacious.

I didn't get to any of the extra credit work because the kids and I all came down with a nasty cold. I was just glad to have gotten these things done and I can't wait to hear about your progress!

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Spring Cleaning: Week Two, Days 1-3

This week is a busy one for my family so I have been working all weekend on putting these printables together for our time cleaning in the bathroom. I thought I would post them three at a time (I am still working on the second half) and give you a chance to work ahead, or just give you a chance look ahead at our week.

Our next round of deep cleaning will occur in the bathroom. If you have more than one bathroom, you may need to spread these tasks out over two weeks time. Remember, you can do everything at your own pace- these are just suggestions to help make your life a little easier and to make manageable cleaning goals for your week.

We will be doing progress reports daily and I look forward to hearing how everyone is doing with their tasks. It has been so fun sharing with you my progress and has provided the motivation I need to make my home the organized space that I have always wanted.

Without further adieu, here are the first three printables for our bathroom cleaning agenda:

Today's Printables

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day One

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day Two

Spring Cleaning Your Bathroom Day Three

In Case You Missed It (Previous Printables):

Spring Cleaning Introductory Page

Spring Cleaning Recipes

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day One

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Two

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Three

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Four

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Five

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Six (newly updated with cabinet instructions)

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Progress Report: Day Six in the Kitchen


(Editor's Note: I wanted to get this up for the weekend so you could see how awesome everything turned out. I am working feverishly on our next set of printables- happy weekend, everyone!!)

To say that I feel like I am about to burst when I look at my kitchen would be an understatement. I can't believe how much I was able to accomplish this week and with only one hour for each day. This was as much of an experiment for me as it was for you. I don't have a lot of time to devote during the week towards cleaning, but I was determined that I could make one hour each day (in addition to regular duties around the house) work for me.

The real challenge has been doing this AND putting together the printables for each assignment, while documenting my progress. I am planning to get a jump start this weekend because I want to continue supplying you detailed instructions and I want these to be reused and available to our readers all year long. We will be finding a spot for these, don't you worry! The traffic on our site has boomed bigger than ever before so I know this is something that moms want!



I finished the day off by putting some pretty table linens on and bringing a little spring into our house. The flowers were already in our kitchen so I just added a white tablecloth, a sage green cloth napkin to center my cake stand, and then tied a green bow on the stand. This weekend I will bake something for our centerpiece.

If you have a computer in your kitchen, you could even put some super spring-y pictures up from Flickr and add even more freshness into your house. My husband finds the coolest stuff to put on there!

One of my proudest organizing moments, in my kitchen, was finally making space for my cookbooks. I love knowing that they have their own home now and that I won't have to go to another room to get them. Getting rid of the clutter in my kitchen freed the space I needed to accomplish such a task. My clean fridge was also a highlight for me (as lame as it sounds) just because I don't make the time to clean on top, the front, and inside of it the way I should. It is the little things in life.

My biggest challenge had to be getting started and tackling my pantry. I have so many other things that I was thinking that I could be doing if I wasn't doing that. I am proud that I pushed myself, otherwise, I would have never appreciated my space half as much as I do now!



Finally, here is my reward for all of my hard work. A delicious and icy cold Diet Coke. Yum! I don't drink a lot of soda and I rarely buy the brand-name stuff so this was a true delight. I zoned out and caught up on all of the blogs that I had been missing for an hour after I cleaned.

Life is good!

Sound Off: What was your greatest reward this week? What was your biggest cleaning challenge?

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Spring Cleaning: Week One, Day Six

It is the last day in our kitchen and I am so thrilled to see and hear about everyone's results. This final day will truly showcase all of your efforts and I guarantee that you are going to want to spend oodles of time in your freshly cleaned kitchen.

Next week we will be tackling another hot spot for when you have guests...the bathroom! This is another source of embarrassment for me and I am looking forward to creating a guest-worthy space. I hope you will join me on our next mission.

If you want to work ahead, here is what I had in mind for our agenda for the bathroom:

1. Organize and inventory bath/beauty products (this is a big one for the CVS addicts, like myself).
2. Organize and clean out the medicine cabinet.
3. Weeding out the unnecessary items.
4. Caulk tub (if needed), clean hard water from fixtures (if needed), and wash shower curtain.
5. Repeat steps necessary in other bathroom(s) of your home (I realize this might take more than one hour, depending on the amount of bathrooms you have)
6. Final tidy- clean the sink, toilet, tub, mirror, and do a deep clean on your floors.

Please know that I am here for any questions, should they arise, and feel free to share your progress through your own blog or email your pictures to me and I will post them to share everyone's hard work and progress.

If you haven't joined in the challenge yet, it is never too late to start. Everyone can go at their own pace, you can print out the materials and tackle a one hour task any day of the week. The important thing is to just start! You won't believe what a difference one hour can make in your home.

Today's Printable

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Six (newly updated with cabinet instructions)

In Case You Missed It (Previous Printables):

Spring Cleaning Introductory Page

Spring Cleaning Recipes

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day One

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Two

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Three

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Four

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Five


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MomAdvice Weekly Recap 03.14.08

I am so happy to announce that I am officially a Domestic Diva and have joined the team over at Blissfully Domestic. I am honored to be working with some of my favorite writers and will get to share more tips with you, covering the topic of family/parenting. This is a great online magazine of all things domestic and they have a hopping community already going. If you haven't visited the site, I know you will be extremely impressed with the content and design. It is wonderful!

Featured Article:

Budget-Minded Easter Celebrations-
Easter is one of the holidays where you just don’t need to spend a bundle to have a memorable celebration. Take a few hints from us and learn how to have a budget-minded Easter celebration, while celebrating the holiday in style... Continue Reading

Blog Entries for Fun & Discussion:

Tooth Fairy Economics-
We got a great reader letter inquiring what the going rate was for the tooth fairy these days. Come join us in a fun discussion on Tooth Fairy Economics... Continue Reading

Travel Trips from Tracy Gallagher - Tracy Gallagher, from the Travel Channel, joins us for an interview and shares some really great tips for traveling with your children. We covered everything from saving money to saving your sanity to keep your children safe... Continue Reading

Spring Cleaning the Kitchen- We are breaking the spring cleaning down into smaller and more manageable task for moms and even providing personal coaching and encouragement through free printables. Learn how to clean anything and everything in your home and check in with us daily for some motivation... Continue Reading

Thank You Writers Strike Part III- We did it. We got rid of the extended package, after our rates were raised again. Join us in a discussion on whether or not cable (or satellite television is worth it) and how you got around paying THE MAN...Continue Reading

Don't miss a single entry and subscribe to my feeds! We have made it easy for you to do it- you are just a click away!

Giving Away the Mother Load!

The Geek Squad is offering one lucky reader a gift card for $169 to be put towards the Geek Squad helping put in a wireless network in your home! How cool is that? To enter this giveaway, please leave us a comment by March 19th at 8PM on The Motherloot. In your comment, please share one thing you would like our new resident Tech Mom to cover about computers- ANYTHING you are struggling with understanding is fair game for discussion on future features... Enter To Win!

Today is the LAST DAY to enter our Horizon Organic Milk giveaway!! Why buy milk when I could just give it to you for free? Hurry over to The MotherLoot for contest details on a giveaway for three containers of Horizon Organics Plus with DHA!


Featured Recipe of the Week:

Apple Pie Muffins

Forum Discussions:

Does anyone know of a site where there are any coupons for Crayola, my kids love the Color Wonder products but there are very expensive, Target has them on sale and I am just trying to find a way to make the deal sweeter!... Join the Discussion

I LOVE my crock pot too! Unfortunately, only after 8 years my crock pot just went on the fritz. It was a Rival, which I thought was the original...do you have a brand you like? I'm going to be buying a new one soon and could use some suggestions! It's funny, I had my mom's that she had received as a wedding gift for years, and it was still working after 37 years but I donated it since it was small and the crock didn't come out. That is what I get for wanting the added convenience!... Join the Discussion


Play it Again, Momma! (A Spring Cleaning Edition)

Did you miss these posts the first time around? Here they are for your reading pleasure!

Displaying a Collection

Get Yourself Organized

How Do You Organize Your Pantry

Getting the Car Organized

Free Up Pantry Space & Make a Snack

Maximizing Space

Not enough of me yet?

WSBT: The Amazing Dishwasher

Frugal Hacks: Frugal Momma in Overdrive

Blissfully Domestic: Fun Family Game Nights

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Freebie Friday: March 14, 2008

We have a whole bunch of freebies for you! A big thank you to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for fattening up our list this week! Heather was very busy serving up some very crafty posts on her exciting Craft Week. Be sure to browse her crafty archive for lots of great ideas for projects to do around your house!

Health & Beauty

Entertainment

HP free instructor-led online classes (digital scrapbooking, photography, software, etc.)

Free magazine subscriptions at lowpricesubs (Family Fun, Wondertime and others)

HOME magazine subscription (from RewardsGold for completing survey)

Hallmark magazine subscription (from RewardsGold for completing survey) OR

Hallmark Magazine subscription (from Free Biz Mags)

Today's Diet & Nutrition magazine subscription (from Mercury Magazines)

Getting to Know: Breaking a Stubborn Habit book

DVD for Teachers (can get a new DVD every year that you teach!)

Horton Activity Book & Tip Sheets (sponsored though Energy Star- these are on backorder, but you can place your order for when they come in or download them)

Sport Diver Magazine

Free admission to Adventures in Travel Expo (Enter promo Code: NGFREE. This is at the Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C from 3/29/08-3/30/08)

Two Free Tickets to a March 22nd New Jersey Nets Game or a March 26th Chicago Bulls Game (you will want to pick the tickets up to guarantee your seat)

Home & Garden

Pet Care

Start Right water conditioner (for pond or aquarium owners)

Doggie Delightz

Mark your calendars!! FREE Photo with the Easter Bunny at Walmart on March 15 & 16

Mark your calendars!!
See your local JC Penney advertisement for details. They will have free chocolate candy bars at the door on March 15 and 16, and included is a coupon for 10%, 15%, or 20% off.

Mark your calendars!!
YMCA Healthy Kids Day on April 12

Mark your calendars!!
Receive a one-on-one beauty makeover from ULTA’s beauty consultants and learn how to get the latest looks with some of the best brands. Plus, you’ll receive deluxe samples from participating brands* to help you start off the season in style. Book your appointment now.
March 28 • Smashbox & NeoStrata
March 29 • Bare Escentuals, MD Formulations & Murad
March 30 • Stila & Fusion Beauty

Mark your calendars!! Starting March 4, 2008, bring the April 2008 cover of Seventeen or a printout of the seventeen.com home page to any Aéropostale store to receive one (1) “Miss Save the World” tank top (approximate retail value: $19.50 each). Forty thousand (40,000) will be given away. One per person. Giveaway ends April 8, 2008. While supplies last.

Mark your calendars!! Free ink refills will be available at Walgreens on April 2, 2008. They do not refill any Epson or Canon cartridges, but they do fill a number of Lexmark, HP, and Dell. Call your local Walgreens to find out if they fill your cartridge. You get 1 color OR black free refill per person so if you need two cartridges filled, bring a friend or you have to pay for the second one. Also, this deal is VERY popular, so don't go in on free day thinking you'll get your cartridge back soon. It's usually returned to you later that day, even up to 24 hours-3+ days for busier stores. (Thank you My Coupons)

Here's to the Heroes!!
Complimentary admission for active duty military representing all five service branches, active members of a reserve or National Guard unit, and/or up to three direct dependants. Valid for one complimentary single-day admission per person, per year, to one of the following Anheuser-Busch Adventure Parks:
o SeaWorld Orlando, San Diego, or San Antonio
o Busch Gardens Tampa Bay or Williamsburg
o Sesame Place
o Aquatica
o Adventure Island
o Water Country USA
Offer valid between 1/1/2008 and 12/31/2008. Operating days and hours vary by park.
Please check with specific park for current operating schedule. Visit their site for more details!
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Don't forget to enter our own personal giveaways! The Geek Squad is offering one lucky reader a gift card for $169 to be put towards the Geek Squad helping put in a wireless network in your home! How cool is that? To enter this giveaway, please leave us a comment by March 19th at 8PM on The Motherloot. In your comment, please share one thing you would like our new resident Tech Mom to cover about computers- ANYTHING you are struggling with understanding is fair game for discussion on future features... Enter To Win!


Today is the LAST DAY to enter our Horizon Organic Milk giveaway!! Why buy milk when I could just give it to you for free? Hurry over to The MotherLoot for contest details on a giveaway for three containers of Horizon Organics Plus with DHA!

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Progress Report: Day Five in the Kitchen

I got rid of one bin of stuff and one trash bag full of items to donate. My tote was full of baby feeding supplies, a surplus of sippy cups, extra cookware, and a few duplicate items in my kitchen.

I was able to clear out enough stuff in one of my cabinets that I am now able to tuck my cookbooks in one of them. Before my cookbooks were shoved in a corner gathering dust and creating clutter in a corner in my kitchen. It is so nice to have them accessible and easy to get to.

I also was able to clear out an entire junk drawer (which produced several great finds that will save me some money this month, like batteries for my garage door opener!) and now I can open the drawer without it getting stuck on papers and junk!

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Spring Cleaning: Week One, Day Five

I hope that you are feeling the same sense of accomplishment that I am and that the printables are providing the motivation you need to reclaim your home.

The last two tasks will be easy tasks, in comparison to our earlier projects. This is where all of your hard work begins paying off and you start to really see how wonderful your kitchen can look.

For day five, we are just decluttering our kitchen for an hour. Tackle the areas that are difficult for you. Can you not sit at your kitchen table and enjoy a meal because it is too cluttered? Do you have a desk or nook that is a hot spot for paperwork and junk mail? Do you have so much stuff that it is hard to see the beauty or the function in the items you have?

It feels good to declutter our kitchen and there are tons of great places where you can donate your stuff. There is Freecycle, Freepeats, Goodwill, Salvation Army, community churches, homeless shelters, and homes that care for unwed mothers.

If you are feeling particularly ambitious, start tagging the items for a future garage sale this summer. After all, why shouldn't you make a little money for all of your hard work? Tuck the money into a vacation fund or purpose the money towards an item in your home that you TRULY will use.

Throw stuff out with wild abandon! If it isn't adding to your life, if you don't have the energy to maintain it, if your kitchen is too cluttered to cook- then CHUCK IT!!

Today's Printable:

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Five

In Case You Missed It (Previous Printables):

Spring Cleaning Introductory Page

Spring Cleaning Recipes

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day One

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Two

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Three

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Four

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Frugal Family Fun

My husband builds some amazing forts for the kids using sofa cushions, comforters, and lots of fluffy pillows. Throw on a DVD from the library and you have your very own movie theater! The kids had a great time with daddy while I was gone last night. Aren't dads just the best fort builders?



When the kids climb in bed, my husband and I pretend it is summer and sip our Magic Milkshakes. We sip these as we catch up on our work in the evening or just spend time chatting while we slurp our shakes down. The Midwest folks have spring fever so we do what we can to make it feel like it is hot outside!

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Progress Report: Day Four in the Kitchen

Well, I don't know about you, but my fridge was in need some outer attention too. I took everything off of my fridge and gave it a good scrubbing. I got rid of the outer clutter on the fridge and condensed our magnets. All of the little appointment cards and school fliers with reminder dates got logged into the trusty calendar. Pictures got put in a photo box (except for a few) and now I have a clean white fridge.

The top of my fridge was cluttered and I condensed that too. I still have my bread machine, griddle, and some of the children's art supplies on top. Emily likes to color while I make our dinner so I didn't want to get rid of these completely. I had a junk container up on top of the fridge that got trashed and I did some decluttering around the outside of the fridge too.

I organized underneath the sink and got rid of a lot of stuff that I didn't need. I am going to work my way through some of the cleaners that are under there. I organized my dish towels and rags and got everything back into its home.

I got a little carried away so I got a jump on tomorrow's activities, which include weeding out the rest of the junk in your kitchen. I was in a cleaning frenzy and couldn't stop!

I think part of it is that we are having a BEAUTIFUL day in Indiana and I am so THANKFUL! I am so sick of snow and yucky weather. To open my windows and let some fresh air into my kitchen is a dream come true. With the spring air blowing in, it was just the motivation I needed to get my kitchen in order.

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Amy's Notebook 03.13.08


These window silhouettes are so spring-y (@ Skip to My Lou)

These baked donuts look delicious (@ Soule Mama)

I love this number and color game for toddlers (@ Parent Hacks)

I love this tip for getting a perfectly cooked steak (@ The Kitchn)

Snickerdoodle French Toast?? My family will be in heaven (@ Baking Bites)

I love this tutorial for how to sew a double-sided strap (@ Fat Orange Cat)

These recipes for dressings look delicious (@ Angry Chicken)

I also want to try this recipe for beef stew (@ Shelterrific)

These parmesan garlic potatoes would make a great side to my perfectly grilled steak (@ The Sparrow's Nest)

Isn't this idea for a fruit basket the coolest? (@ Daily Danny)

I need to do a household inventory (@ The Simple Dollar)

This looks like a great round-up of ideas for ways to recycle water bottles (@ Frugal Upstate)

I am always worried about this- what to do if you break a CFL bulb (@ Not Martha)

**********************
Why buy milk when I could just give it to you for free? Hurry over to The MotherLoot for contest details on a giveaway for three containers of Horizon Organics Plus with DHA!

And while you are perusing our site, be sure to enter our Geek Squad Giveaway and check our latest review entries for fun children’s soaps and a great phone for work-at-home moms!

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spring Cleaning: Week One, Day Four

We are closing in on the end of our time in the kitchen and will only have two more one hour tasks to go. Today we are going to tackle the exterior of our fridge and organizing underneath our sinks.

Just print out the directions for the day and tackle the task at your convenience. If you haven't joined us yet, it is NEVER too late to start. All of the tasks can easily be completed in one hour and will leave you feeling like a superstar! Good luck, everyone!


Today's Printable

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Four

In Case You Missed It (Previous Printables):

Spring Cleaning Introductory Page

Spring Cleaning Recipes

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day One

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Two

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Three

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Progress Report: Day Three in the Kitchen

My pantry was stuffed to the brim so this is my condensed version. I got rid of all of the extra boxes, tossed some expired stuff, and even had room to make a place for my rolling pin.

I am always wondering where our peanut butter is hiding in our cupboard. No surprise that there were three jars already opened and waiting for me.

I also took inventory of the items that we have in our basement (this is where we store our canned goods and extra ingredients). Would you say that 13 jars of peanut butter sounds excessive? Perhaps! Those stockpile opportunities only happen once in a blue moon though and I would hate to miss them!

I hope everyone else did well with their pantry challenge!

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Tooth Fairy Economics

I got a great email today that I wanted to share and discuss!

Amy,

I just wondered your thoughts on this article and what you do in your house. I read one time about someone who gave their child foreign currency instead so there was no 'value' to compare with the other kids. It also allowed the parent to teach some world geography and expose the child to new cultures.

Thanks for all you do. I love the blogs.

New mommy to be (May 08),
Katie

The tooth fairy hasn't visited our home yet, although my son is quickly approaching that age! I am excited to learn from all of you and share on this topic!! Much thanks to Katie for this idea, as I think it is so great to talk about.

What are the tooth fairy economics in your house?

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Travel Tips from Tracy Gallagher

Travel Channel expert Tracy Gallagher offers a wealth of insider information for every aspect of leisure travel, from family vacations in the United States to exotic trips around the world. She is best known as the host of the upbeat interstitials that have aired for years on the Travel Channel to promote various aspects of the network’s programming.

Tracy also happens to be working with Hanes and is helping to provide parenting tips for their website.

We got the chance to interview Tracy on traveling with children and asked her how to make those family trips a tad more bearable... and even really fun!

Many parents find traveling with children very challenging, what are some easy ways that parents can make travels less stressful?

It’s all in the mindset. If you start off worrying how hard it is going to be instead of focusing on the adventure, it will be more trouble. Stay calm – if you get stressed, your kids will get stressed. Get your kids involved from the beginning: ask them to help plan and depending on how old they are, carefully explain that traveling can be tiring and hard and that you as parents need their cooperation. There will be times when everyone is tired, possibly can’t understand the language, and when the kids get a bit bored, but they really need to do their best to not get grumpy.

First thing’s first – make sure the kids are comfortable! Long gone are the days when moms dressed their kids in dressy clothes just for a plane ride. Get your kids in comfy clothes – I always make sure mine are wearing Hanes underwear; they love the super-soft waistband and the tagless design to eliminate in-seat squirming, especially on long trips. I also encourage them to wear layers; from airports to rental cars to trains, everywhere has a different temperature. A Hanes hoodie lets them put on or shed a layer whenever they want. Finally, I always pack an extra t-shirt or pants depending on how much room I have. That way, if your kids spill (and chances are they will!) you’re prepared and won’t have to face any future complaining.
Get the kids in on the action by having them carry something, especially if you’re traveling by train or plane. It makes them happy and involved and it can also help spread the burden around, especially if they are bit older. Even younger children can carry their own kid-sized backpacks with all their stuff. Kids love to emulate their parents and having their own suitcase or backpack actually makes them feel empowered and like a big kid!

If you have more than one child, be strategic with how you sit on the plane or train. If your son loves to poke your daughter on a regular basis, it might make sense to separate them into two rows (if you can) to cut down on time spent both refereeing and apologizing to nearby passengers. A car poses closer quarters so try to keep your kids entertained with fun games and toys – code words for distractions.

Once you’ve arrived, give your kids choices of things they'd like to do on the trip- they are less likely to complain about something they choose. I also encourage my kids to start a scrapbook, so while we’re visiting different places, they can also keep busy looking for things to fill their scrapbooks. Last resort - it is always good to have a portable DVD…or now you can even play movies on a computer or iPhone! Kids are kids and can only take so much moving around. Some downtime in front of a movie to unwind isn't a bad thing, and if you are in a hotel it gives you a chance to plan the next day of your trip…or just relax yourself!

One of my biggest concerns with traveling is the amount of money we are spending on our travels. Do you have any money-saving tips that you could offer to parents?

Spend some quality time preparing for your trip by looking for things that are free to do in each destination. Look for locations that might be hosting free concerts, carnivals or festivals during your stay; research local trails to hike or free beaches to explore; determine which zoos or museums have free admission and when. Use your hotel concierge - ask when the best and least expensive time is to visit local tourist hot sports. Or, inquire about those hot spots off the beaten path – maybe there is a local bookstore that hosts a reading for children or an arts & crafts store that holds a free class each week – you never know!

Try a home exchange - that gives you free lodging, plus a house with a kitchen so you don't have to eat every meal out. Travel off-season by going when the crowds are thin, especially if you can take your kids out of school a few days. Get a hotel room with a sofa bed for the kids so you don't have to get an extra room.

What are some fun ways to keep children entertained when going on long trips?

In our car, we pack all kinds of music so the kids can sing, which helps keep them engaged and happy. We also do brain teasers. We talk about our destination and what each member of the family is excited to do once we get there. At the top of each hour, we break out special present or snack (but, no chocolate! If it melts, it gets everywhere!).

On planes, word searches, magna doodles, a deck of cards, are all invaluable. I also like books that allow kids to change the endings allowing for multiple reads. And once again, a movie is not a cop out.

One of my favorite ideas, no matter how we’re traveling, is putting together customized travel kits for each of my kids themed according to our destination. Just grab a brown paper bag, put their name on the front and fill them with all sorts of goodies. From healthy snacks to stickers to comic strips, their travel kits don’t have to cost much and are like spontaneous presents.

Finally, no matter how we’re traveling I like to encourage my kids to take something from home with them. Kids love the routine of home and so a favorite doll, pillow or blanket will put them at ease while on the road.

How can parents save money when it comes to dining on their travels?

Again, do your research. Look for hotels where kids eat for free or offer kids menus. A lot of places also offer free breakfasts. Stay in a home or hotel room with a small kitchenette so you can cook some meals yourself. That is a big money saver - even if you just eat one meal here.

Try not to order room service - that translates to higher prices and service fees...instead, pack your own snacks and put them in the hotel fridge. Explain to your kids (and husband) that the mini bar is off limits!!!

What are some fun and family friendly destinations that families should definitely visit?

Alaska - for the great outdoors...kayaking next to otters and bald eagles is amazing.

Washington DC - so many things are free like the National Mall and all its beautiful monuments.
The U.S. Mint is so cool to see money being made and the Smithsonian museums are top notch.

Hawaii - on Maui, we went zip lining, hiking, kayaking...it's not just about sitting on a beach, but you can do that too! Lots of hotels also offer morning or all-day camps for the kids.

Galapagos Islands: for older kids.

And of course - Orlando and San Diego! C'mon! It may not be that original an idea, but they are only kids once :)

Do you have any tips for keeping your children safe when embarking on trips?

I make copies of their passports and keep an extra copy at home and another copy in my suitcase. I try and dress each child in the same color each day, so if in case anything did happen to one of them, I could tell the authorities what color they are wearing by looking at my other children.

Always talk to your children about the dangers associated with being in a new place...unfamiliar surroundings, new way around, etc. Make sure to come up with a plan if someone gets lost, and also give your child the name of where you are staying and a phone number on a piece of paper for his or her pocket.


Sound Off:
Is your family embarking on a trip for spring break? What is your best travel tip?

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Thank You Writers Strike Part III

We are down to basic channels, thanks to the writers strike! I am finding my life to be much fuller since we cut down our television watching. Direct TV had raised our rates again (just another $5 after the numerous $5-8 rate increases) and I just thought to myself, "Now what sensible person would continue taking it from the man?"

Ryan isn't really as on board with this decision, but I suggested all of the great things we could do with our thirty dollar a month savings. We could maybe get a couple of new Wii games, we could have a great date night (and TALK!), we could read the same book and talk about it, we could play board games, we can enjoy taking walks... the possiblities are endless!

I went on the website, I picked the option to change my plan, and then I thought of all the shows we couldn't see and that I would miss.

We will see how it goes, but I am committed to trying!

Sound Off: Do you have cable or satellite television? What type of plan are you on?

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Spring Cleaning: Week One, Day Three

Day three!! We are halfway through our week of cleaning our first room. Only three more days to go and we can experience a neat-as-a-pin kitchen. I can't wait to have my friends over in my newly organized space!

Today we are tackling the pantry and/or cupboards. Remember that the tasks are intended to be an hour so do what you have time for, but don't be surprised if you get carried away and can't stop. I think it is the getting going part that is so hard for me.

I am off to tackle my pantry right now!

Today's Printable:


Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Three


In Case You Missed It (Previous Printables):

Spring Cleaning Introductory Page

Spring Cleaning Recipes

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day One

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Two

Sound Off: Do you have a system for organizing your pantry or a way that has made finding what you need a little easier?

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Progress Report: Day Two in the Kitchen

I will admit it, I am a love to clean my floors and see them all new and shiny. Cleaning the floors is not a problem... moving all of the stuff that is resting on the floors is something I don't do.

Here are my rugs sitting on the nice cold front step. They got a good shimmy shake and laid out in the sunshine while I busted tail and cleaned my floors.

Once items were moved (surprise, surprise) lots of dust bunnies and yuck emerged. I pressed on, like the soldier I am, and showed them who was boss.

How nice to have gleaming floors to greet me in the morning! Each step brings me closer to the home I am dreaming of. I hope you are having the same experience!

PS- Did I mention how nice this is to do this with friends? I noticed even message board GROUPS were doing it together. That is so wonderful and it is motivating me to keep trudging on. A big hug and thanks to all my friends for linking in to my spring cleaning challenge.

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WSBT-TV: The Amazing Dishwasher

Today on our Moms First segment on WSBT, we are talking about how to save money using your dishwasher. I offer a few ideas for ways to save money including what cycles to chose, how to make your own dish detergent, what to buy instead of Jet Dry and explain the cost-effectiveness of putting your dishes in the dishwasher.

This is great timing since we are spring cleaning our kitchens this week! I will have to add an extra credit assignment to our printables to clean our dishwashers! You can also read my article, "The Amazing Dishwasher" for more ideas on how to save money!

I have gotten some emails from local folks who missed the recipe this morning for making your dish detergent so I wanted to supply that too!

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent

1 cup Borax
1 cup Baking Soda
1/4 cup Salt

Mix these ingredients together and store in an airtight container. Add one tablespoon to your detergent dispenser. If you have an older dishwasher, you may need to experiment with this to see what works best. You can also add this mixture and then a small sprinkle of the regular stuff you buy to extend further.

This formula works well for scouring sinks and tubs too!

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Why Buy Milk? Let Me!


Why buy milk when I could just give it to you for free? Hurry over to The MotherLoot for contest details on a giveaway for three containers of Horizon Organics Plus with DHA!

And while you are perusing our site, be sure to enter our Geek Squad Giveaway and check our latest review entries for fun children’s soaps and a great phone for work-at-home moms!

Sound Off: Let's have a frank discussion about organic milk (without being mean or bullying anyone!) Do you buy organic milk or organic food products? Do you have a selective list of organic products you buy or do you go all the way with organic eating? How has this impacted your health or your grocery bill?

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Spring Cleaning: Week One, Day Two

I was so thankful for your comments and encouragement on these printables. It had been pretty quiet yesterday and I started questioning if anyone really wanted to do this or would use these at all. Thanks for letting me know that they truly are helpful and that you do appreciate some of these tasks being presented in a smaller format.

I know that an entire day of cleaning just sounded daunting to me. In a way, I feel defeated before I begin. I am trying to chug along with you and my home needs just as much attention (sometimes a whole lot more) than everyone else!

I also recall that when I was a new homemaker, I had no idea how to do ANYTHING in my house. Even something that sounds simple to most (like cleaning out the fridge) was something I was researching how to do. My suggestions are only based on being a new mommy and a new homemaker and not having a clue what the heck I was doing with my very own house. I still sometimes feel like I am just "playing house." I think that is why this was important for me to share- so someone else isn't struggling with being a new homemaker!

Today is day two and we are going to work on deep cleaning the floors. I have put together a printable of some ideas for cleaning your floors, although this was tough since each person has a different type of flooring in their kitchen. You will also find a little bit of encouragement and a recipe for a meal- enjoy!!

Today's Printable:

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day Two


In Case You Missed It (Previous Printables):

Spring Cleaning Introductory Page

Spring Cleaning Recipes

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day One

Sound Off: Do you have a method to your mopping? Any product/mopping solution you rave about? Tell us the type of your floors and how you get them clean!

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Progress Report: Day One in the Kitchen

My fridge is clean- whoohoo! Isn't it all about the little things in life? You know it is bad when you are sniffing the interior of the fridge because it smells so darn fresh. You also know it is bad if you think this is as big of a deal as I did!

My refrigerator was G-R-O-S-S! I would elaborate, but I am embarrassed to say that I found something from September lurking towards the back. Yeah, you could say that this needs to happen a tad more often in my house. Lucky for me, I have some amazing readers who won't shame me for it!

Please feel free to share a link to your own progress or just discuss how disgusting the task was...or be smug cause you are one of those people. You know who you are... fridge cleaners!

Day one is behind me and I look forward to sharing my progress on day two. Gooooo team!

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Redbox Code 03.10.08

Today's free code for a Redbox movie is PL96QA. This code is good for one free movie and you can use it until midnight tonight. Enjoy a free family movie together!

Side Notes:

- If you want to rent more than one movie for free, bring more than one credit/debit card. You can use the same promotional code, you just will need different cards to charge it to. The charge will be zero as long as you return your movie on time for the next day.

- When entering in your free movie code, you need to enter it FIRST before picking the movie. On the very first screen, click the, "Rent with Promo." Enter in the above code and then make your selection- the amount should then total zero.

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Spring Cleaning: Week One, Day One

As promised, I am putting together printables for tackling your spring cleaning this year. I just want to stress that we would like for you to share these with others, but ask that you direct them to our site to print them. They have been formatted into PDF files to try and retain as much ownership on them as I can.

I have been working my tail off on these all weekend and I am hoping that you will find them useful. Today we have an introductory letter explaining how the plan will work, what tools you will need to accomplish your tasks, and then your assignment for you to complete. For fun, I have included a recipe/meal idea that you can use. The point is to have a meal in mind so your cleaning doesn't have you running out to McDonald's every night, not necessarily that you have to make whatever is on my agenda.

I am working through these tasks with you and will do my best to post my pictures of my progress. I anticipate my blogging to be a little sluggish as I am trying to put these printables together, spring clean along with you, and keep up with all of the other stuff on my plate. I will do my best though!

Please send some feedback my way- I am anxious to hear it!

Today's Printables:

Spring Cleaning Introductory Page

Spring Cleaning Recipes

Spring Cleaning Your Kitchen Day One

PS- I am trying to upload my photos for today, but am getting errors and timeouts from Google. Is anyone else having trouble with Blogger?

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Spring Cleaning Agenda

It is that time of year again and I am so excited to share with you my spring cleaning goals and accomplishments for this year. To be honest, I really dread doing the spring cleaning routine, but I do love the sense of accomplishment I get and being able to restore my home to some semblance of order for the year.

I work hard as a mom and I work hard on our site so doing an entire marathon of cleaning won't be on my agenda. I keep a fairly tidy home, but I do have problem spots that desire attention. Maybe you work? Maybe you homeschool? Maybe you have a new baby? Marathon cleaning might not be for you!

I am hoping my proposed agenda might be a little more appealing. Each week we will tackle one room in our home and our tasks will be divided into one hour tasks for each day of the week, concentrating on our focused room. I am hoping to put together some printable checklists for the rooms, to help accomplish our goals for the year and to act as motivation for our spring cleaning routine.

The first room that I will be addressing in my home is my kitchen. Tidy enough to eat in? Yes! Scared when company opens a drawer or cupboard? Absolutely!

My goals for the kitchen might be different from yours though so take this weekend to think of seven one hour tasks you could do to get your kitchen/dining room in order.

Goals for My Kitchen (7 Tasks)

1. Clean out the refrigerator (interior)
2. Deep clean the floors (I steam my floors bi-weekly) and washing/shaking out rugs
3. Organize Pantry
4. Clean the refrigerator (exterior) & organize the cupboards under the sink
5. Weeding Out Day (removing unnecessary or unused items in my kitchen)
6. Continue Organizing Pantry (can do inventory at this point for grocery shopping needs)
7. Clean out the freezer


** Monica at the Homespun Heart is offering a giveaway to help motivate you to do your cleaning! Be sure to visit her site for the scoop on the contest and how to participate!!**

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Freebie Friday: March 7, 2008

This is another exciting week of freebies! There is tons of great stuff to choose from and I'd like to say a big thank you to Heather, from Freebies 4 Mom, for helping me put together our list. Heather is going to have Craft Week on her blog with craft-related freebies and giveaways starting Monday! Don't miss it!


Health & Beauty

Natural Solutions magazine (March sample offers)

Huggies GoodNites

Skin MD Natural (must be willing to write a review for your blog)

Food

Entertainment

Home & Garden

Powerbuilt Socket

Redwood Creek Poster (they added some new prints and these are great!)

Pet Care

Doggy Delightz

Mark your calendars!! YMCA Healthy Kids Day on April 12

Mark your calendars!!
Receive a one-on-one beauty makeover from ULTA’s beauty consultants and learn how to get the latest looks with some of the best brands. Plus, you’ll receive deluxe samples from participating brands* to help you start off the season in style. Book your appointment now.
March 28 • Smashbox & NeoStrata
March 29 • Bare Escentuals, MD Formulations & Murad
March 30 • Stila & Fusion Beauty

Mark your calendars!! Starting March 4, 2008, bring the April 2008 cover of Seventeen or a printout of the seventeen.com home page to any Aéropostale store to receive one (1) “Miss Save the World” tank top (approximate retail value: $19.50 each). Forty thousand (40,000) will be given away. One per person. Giveaway ends April 8, 2008. While supplies last.

Mark your calendars!! Free ink refills will be available at Walgreens on April 2, 2008. They do not refill any Epson or Canon cartridges, but they do fill a number of Lexmark, HP, and Dell. Call your local Walgreens to find out if they fill your cartridge. You get 1 color OR black free refill per person so if you need two cartridges filled, bring a friend or you have to pay for the second one. Also, this deal is VERY popular, so don't go in on free day thinking you'll get your cartridge back soon. It's usually returned to you later that day, even up to 24 hours-3+ days for busier stores. (Thank you My Coupons)

Here's to the Heroes!!
Complimentary admission for active duty military representing all five service branches, active members of a reserve or National Guard unit, and/or up to three direct dependants. Valid for one complimentary single-day admission per person, per year, to one of the following Anheuser-Busch Adventure Parks:
o SeaWorld Orlando, San Diego, or San Antonio
o Busch Gardens Tampa Bay or Williamsburg
o Sesame Place
o Aquatica
o Adventure Island
o Water Country USA
Offer valid between 1/1/2008 and 12/31/2008. Operating days and hours vary by park.
Please check with specific park for current operating schedule. Visit their site for more details!
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Don't forget to enter our own personal giveaway! The Geek Squad is offering one lucky reader a gift card for $169 to be put towards the Geek Squad helping put in a wireless network in your home! How cool is that? To enter this giveaway, please leave us a comment by March 19th at 8PM on The Motherloot. In your comment, please share one thing you would like our new resident Tech Mom to cover about computers- ANYTHING you are struggling with understanding is fair game for discussion on future features... Enter To Win!

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MomAdvice Weekly Recap: 03.07.08

It has been a busy week of blogging and lots of great new stuff. We have a new article up, a brand new giveaway, and lot of fun entries for discussion on the blog! Not enough talking? Be sure to visit our hopping forum to share more with women like you!

Featured Article:

Budget-Minded Easter Celebrations-
Easter is one of the holidays where you just don’t need to spend a bundle to have a memorable celebration. Take a few hints from us and learn how to have a budget-minded Easter celebration, while celebrating the holiday in style... Continue Reading

Blog Entries for Fun & Discussion:

Old School Momma Declares War-
I am bringing back some old school games and sharing the rules for playing War in this post. We also have a lively discussion going on what our favorite childhood games were ...Continue Reading

Spring Cleaning Your Computer - It's that time of year again for all of that fun spring cleaning. Have you been overlooking your computer in your annual cleaning checklist? Guest author, Nicole Conway (from the Geek Squad) joins us monthly to share computer tips and share her great advice...Continue Reading

Baby Steps: Being Frugally Fashionable- We continue our series with a fun discussion on how to stay fashionable without breaking the bank We begin the discussion with stores to shop at and are asking you where your favorite spot is to find great clothing and shoe deals... Continue Reading

Thank You Writers Strike Part II- I have started reading again and am sharing my reviews of some really great books I have read... and a few things I have watched. I am looking for your book recommendations and movie recommendations for this next month...Continue Reading

Don't miss a single entry and subscribe to my feeds! We have made it easy for you to do it- you are just a click away!

Giving Away the Mother Load!

The Geek Squad is offering one lucky reader a gift card for $169 to be put towards the Geek Squad helping put in a wireless network in your home! How cool is that? To enter this giveaway, please leave us a comment by March 19th at 8PM on The Motherloot. In your comment, please share one thing you would like our new resident Tech Mom to cover about computers- ANYTHING you are struggling with understanding is fair game for discussion on future features... Enter To Win!

Featured Recipe of the Week:

Sloppy Joes & Oven Fries

Forum Discussions:

We have a garden every year... not big, but enough to eat tons and even can or freeze some. I enjoy it and nothing tastes as good as something you helped to grow! I save a ton of money in the summer and we eat fresh produce till we are going to bust! Are you going to have a garden? I always plan my menus with LOTS of fresh produce in the summer! YUMMY! I can't wait... Join the Discussion

Do you use Angel Food Ministry? Do you like it? Do you pay up front or when you pick up? What are some of the bad things or down falls about it? Thanks for your help... Join the Discussion


Play it Again, Momma! (A Spring Cleaning Edition)

Did you miss these posts the first time around? Here they are for your reading pleasure!

Clean: The Cooktop

Booster Seat Cleaning Solution

Caring for Stainless Steel Appliances

Frugal Carpet Steaming

Cleaning Up Yo' Grill

Not enough of me yet?

WSBT: Saving Money On Beauty Services

Frugal Hacks: Organizing Your Spring Cleaning Supplies

Blissfully Domestic: Bring Back Family Night

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Thank You Writers Strike Part II

Oh, it is feeling so good to get back to reading. Last time I checked in, I had been rediscovering my love of reading and I am continuing to develop my hobby more this month...thanks to all of your amazing recommendations! I added everything to my Good Reads list (thanks to my friend Jessica for sharing this site with me) and now I feel an added sense of accomplishment because I can move things that I have read to different categories and rate them. I just love that!

Several of you recommended starting the Stephenie Meyer's series so I thought I would give it a shot. I am not really into vampire books or anything like that, but it came highly recommended by you so I put a hold on it at the library. I am SO glad I did! I started with the first book in the series (of course), "Twilight." The plot was moving pretty slow for me in the beginning, but then it picked up about halfway through and the ending was such a shocker that I ran downstairs and put a hold on the next two books. I would agree that even if young adult fiction and vampire books don't sound appealing to you, that this book crosses those genres and it equals just really great reading. I stayed up until 12:30 one night so I could finish it and find out how it would end. I should have known it would be a giant cliffhanger since it is a series book, but I was thrilled to have finished it. A big thank you to everyone who recommended these! I am looking forward to reading the next two and I thank you for being so tired because I can't put them down.

The next book I read was, "The Sky Isn't Visible From Here," by Felicia Sullivan. I don't usually read memoirs so this was a little bit out-of-the-box for me, but I am so glad I read this. All I kept thinking was how I am always so worried that something I might do could potentially screw up my kids for the rest of their life and her story just put everything in perspective for me as a mother. I am not saying that I am a perfect mom, but this story just showed how strong the human spirit is and how we can overcome things in our childhood and turn out to be really great adults...no matter what type of childhood or family we might come from. I will admit, this book was hard to read. Who wants to read about abuse being inflicted upon a child or a mother that puts her addictions ahead of her child over and over again? It was a challenge for me as a mother to read a story like this, but I felt better for having read it. An interview with the author offers a lovely incentive too so I am grateful I read it so I could share her story with you! So inspiring!I also read, "One for the Money" by Janet Evanovich. Again, this is not normally my genre, but everyone kept talking about these books so I thought I would give it a shot. This series is awesome! I put the second and third one on hold at our library and picked those up this week. These were suspenseful, but also made me laugh out loud a lot. I think I was starting to annoy my husband at night since I would burst into laughter randomly while he was trying to sleep. Oh well! He knew he married a quirky bookworm when he met me. These books are so much fun!
I got my hands on an advance copy of, "Party Basics for New Nesters" By Maria McBride. This book is amazing and offers tutorials and projects for making your home a place to entertain in. The book is intended for newlyweds, but I think it is an excellent book for anyone who has trouble with entertaining. Many of the projects in it were thrifty and could be put together using items from thrift stores & yard sales so I really appreciated that element about it. I also loved the basics for how to set a table, how to press your table linens, how to arrange flowers, and what tools you need to have a party where you offer mixed drinks. I really enjoyed the basic recipes that this book offered too. I will admit that some of the projects were a little difficult for someone who isn't crafty or good in the kitchen, but my overall feel of this book was that it contained great elements that I could add to make my home more inviting to my guests. Two thumbs up! A great gift to give to a new bride or as a housewarming gift to friends! It looks like this one will hit the bookshelves on March 11th!Not to be outdone by all of these good reads, we also watched (for the first time) The Jason Bourne Collection. We actually got all three movies at the library and each night we watched one movie. Ryan's cousin had recommended this series to us and I thought we would give it a try. This was not in my normal genre of movies, but I could have eaten this up with a spoon. I was hanging on the edge of my seat, I jumped a few times at some unexpected parts, and my husband and I kept murmuring, "Now that was awesome! " over and over and over again. I am so glad that we watched them right in a row too. I am bad about remembering stuff from one movie to the next so this helped me a lot. If you haven't watched these, get them! So great!

My husband also discovered something really great for me! Direct TV customers can watch the whole first season of, "The Tudors" on their free channel. I am not sure how long they will be airing it, but I am DVR'ing it and watching the episodes in the evening. I don't know if other stations offer this, but those free channels can be great for watching shows on the expanded cable. I know what they are hoping is that you will get hooked and start ordering Showtime or HBO, but I am just going to enjoy the free stuff and then wait for the DVD to come out for the next season. I love historical fiction and this series is amazing. They have edited it and said you have to subscribe to the channel to get the full-on action or whatever. Works for me!

Sound Off: Tell me what you are reading and watching this month?

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It Was Bound to Happen

At the doctor's office:

Dr: Well, it looks like a sinus infection. I am going to go ahead and prescribe some medicine for them.

Me: That sounds great!

Dr: I would pick this up at Meijer. The kids will get their antibiotics free there, which is a great deal.... and I know how much you love a deal (with a wink)! How's that next article coming?

*****************************
On the massage table:

Me: When did you start working here?

Massage Therapist: Oh, about a year ago. I love it.

Me: That is great!

Massage Therapist: You stay home right? And do your website?

Me: (face muffled in massage table) Um, yeah... I do. How did you know that?

Massage Therapist: Oh, I read your articles in Michiana Family Magazine. That is so great that you figured out a way to stay home with your kids and work.

*****************************

Me: I brought in my vitamins to show you, like you had suggested, just to see if I was taking what you were recommending.

Doctor: Let me see. Wow! I am so impressed!

Me: Oh, really? Did I pick the right stuff?

Doctor: I am just impressed at the quality of the vitamins you bought. Honestly, I am really impressed.

Me: Well, they were a bit of a splurge, but I gave up my prescription drugs so...

Doctor: No, I am just really impressed.
*****************************
In line at Goodwill...


Cashier: That will be $15. Oh, you brought your own bag....wait, I know you. You're that frugal mom. I watch you every week. (Calling over to the other cashier) Shirley, Shirley....remember that girl I was telling you about? That one that tells you about deals and coupons. That one on the news. This is her. You need to watch her.

Shirley: How can I watch her? I am always working here!

Guy Behind Me: You do that segment on WSBT?

Me: Yes

Guy Behind Me: I watch that every Tuesday

Cashier: That tip about Sam's Club...I loved that tip

Lady Behind Me: What tip?

Cashier: She said you can order your stuff online and they will put it together for you.

Lady Behind Me: (interrupting) Yes, yes...I already knew that. I thought everyone knew that (smugly)

Me: Thank you, have a great day!

*****************************

In line at the grocery store...

Guy in Front of Me: Is that a good deal on bread? You bought a lot of it?

Me: Well, it is about $2 cheaper per loaf so I thought it would be a good time to....

Guy In Front of Me: Can you watch my cart for a minute?

Me: Um... yeah

Guy In Front of Me (now behind me): My wife is going to be so happy!

*****************************

It was bound to happen. What do you do when your anonymous life doesn't feel anonymous anymore? I am talking to all of you great bloggers out there- do your families read your blogs? Do people know you because of your blog? Do you censor yourself because you know people are reading your blog?

Here is another question, is it good to be known because you are CHEAP?

I really want to talk about this with someone and I am asking people to come out of lurking and tell me how you guys deal with this stuff. Please share!

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Check It Out: The Sky Isn't Visible From Here

It was an honor and a privilege to have received a copy of, "The Sky Isn't Visible From Here," by Felicia Sullivan. I emailed Felicia and thanked her for two sleepless nights where I could not sleep because I was thinking about her book too much. I also, very boldly, asked if she would let me do an interview with her after I finished the book. I was pleasantly surprised when she said she would welcome the opportunity to share with our readers, and I am so happy to share it with you.

"The Sky Isn't Visible From Here," is Felicia's memoir of her childhood. It is the story of the neglect and abuse that is inflicted upon her by a mother who is heavily addicted to cocaine, and then a journey through her own addiction and recovery.

Felicia lived through experiences that no child should ever have to go through and then later battled her own demons with drug abuse later in her life. Now in recovery, she shares her personal story of overcoming abuse and, in the end, she shows you the strong and resilient woman she truly has become because of her difficult past.

Your memoir shared a shocking story of abuse and neglect that was inflicted upon you by your mother. How difficult was it to write about such a personal experience and how were you able to cope with reliving it through your writing?

When I embarked on this journey, I thought it would be an impossible one. For years the concept of people knowing about my past terrified me. I thought I would be judged because of my humble background, the fact that my mother was a drug addict. I felt as if I would be judged not for the person I was, but for the environment from which I came.

However, over the past few years, the most amazing thing has happened. Once I let go of the burden of shame and finally mourned losing my mother, it became easier for me to tell people the truth. My mother always told me that vulnerability is a weakness, a disease, and for the great portion of my life I wasn’t actually able to cry (unless I was drunk), and when I finally let my guard down, when I was finally honest with myself and with my friends, something entirely magical happened. All of these incredibly supportive friends emerged, and they listened and supported me without judgment. And this made crafting this book easier because I knew I had a supportive family behind me, even when I’m reliving horrific events or hearing my mother’s voice in my hair. The love and support of my father and friends made this journey easier.

In one scene in the book, you share that your mother rips up some of your stories in a rage and it seems that you are always writing or talking about being a writer. Was this your ultimate goal? Did you see this as a way to get out of the poverty you were living in?

That’s a wonderful question, although I can assure you that a career in writing alone doesn’t afford you a fabulous lifestyle! As a child books were my escape. I would sit on my fire escape after finishing one of the many books I devoured, and dream of cities, countries, characters– places and people markedly different from the ones who inhabited my Brooklyn neighborhood.

My mother’s voice was always the loudest sound and I often felt silenced growing up in her wake. Writing gave me a means of communication when there was none. I could shout! I could cry! I could be angry at the world and everyone in it. And committing these events, my life lived to paper, made inconceivable events that much more vivid and real.

Someone asked me if I didn’t have the upbringing that I did, would I still write books? I thought about that for a while and responded that I would indeed be a writer although perhaps my work wouldn’t be so dark.

Your mother never calls you by your real name in the book and only calls you “Lisa.” In some ways did it feel like you were telling Lisa’s story? Do you feel like Lisa no longer exists now that you have detached yourself from your mother?

Oddly enough, you are one of the very few to ask me about this, and it’s such an integral part of the book!!! How does one find their identity when one has no family history? When a parent routinely gives you different answers for all the same questions? When the person you are is different than the person you want to be? For me, my memoir isn’t about embracing one identity over another, rather I see this story as my journey in realizing that the woman I am today is due, in part, to the life I lived with my mother and her distorted half-truths, but that’s merely a fraction of who I am. My book celebrates the fact that my mother is no longer my “author” (as she so often claimed), while I sit silent taking dictation.


The most painful stories to read were times where your mother was using you to get what she wanted, and it is often repeated over and over again. Would you say that this is one of the worst things that your mother did to you?

One of the cruelest things a parent can do is deprive their child of that small span of time when the world is simple, beautiful and utterly innocent – before time passes and the child grows into a teenager and begins to question this terrific fiction. I never knew this time, and the worst thing I can think of my mother having done to me is this: she stole my childhood from me.

Was writing the story of your life therapeutic for you in any way? Are you now able to close a chapter on your relationship with your mother?

Absolutely! Although, I’m afraid that writing this book has made my view of her and my upbringing more complex. When I started Sky I viewed my relationship with my mother in definitive black and white terms – I didn’t love her and I was never going to forgive her for stealing my childhood from me, for always putting herself before me, for choosing men over me. Meanwhile I had also been drinking heavily, continuing my decade-long affair with alcohol. However, over the past year, I got sober and have had the advantage of clarity that sobriety can bring, to wholly understand our relationship in a way that I couldn’t have before. It was as if I had been sleeping for a long time and I suddenly woke up.

I don’t forgive my mother for the choices she made but I now understand why she made them. As an addict your choice will always be the drug. And part of me feels an unbelievable amount of sorrow for her – a single parent who never had it easy, a woman who lacked role models and support. It was us against the world, and it was a war she always had to win, but soon grew tired of fighting. Drugs made the land mines, and their inevitable explosions, easier to bear. However, my refrain is this: before the drugs she had a choice and she always chose her over me.

And as I grow older, I get a twinge of sadness when I hear friends talk about their meddling, overprotective mothers – stalwart, lovable women who are their very best friends. I ache for that maternal figure and guide, and although professional mentors, a terrific father, and friends who have served as my surrogate family, comfort me, there is nothing like that intimate mother-daughter relationship. So while I don’t miss my mother, I long for the idea of one.

I understand that memoirs are often very difficult to get published. Did you have any difficulties getting your story published or heard by others?

Not really. I’m privileged to say that my path to publication hasn’t been a difficult one. What’s proved more taxing is publication itself – more difficult than I had anticipated.

What has been the most surprising thing to you about writing this book?

I could actually write Sky and not fall to pieces.

Do you wonder if your mother has read the story?

I do wonder if she’s alive, if she’s living in New York, has read my book. But I’m more focused on the here and the now: my well-being and sobriety. I’m focused on cultivating healthy relationships and strengthening existing ones. I’m focused on being a present and loving friend, daughter, significant other.

What would you hope others to gain by reading your life story?

I wrote this book as a testament to my strength, as a celebration of my survival and recovery, to demonstrate that alternative families are possible, and that love – the most sacred of emotions – is not unconditional. I hope, really hope, that people take comfort in shared experience, and be inspired to live their best life. I also hope that it makes wonderful parents hug their children a little tighter, and, for children who have tenuous, dysfunctional relationships with their parents: you don’t have to carry their shame for it’s possible to create a new family if your current incarnation is an altogether too painful one.

What are you planning to write next?

I’m very excited about returning to fiction!!! Ideas are brewing for a novel tentatively titled Women and Children First. It’s a satire of our technologically evolved, access-hungry society. I tell people it’s White Noise meets American Psycho without all the gore.

For more information about Felicia Sullivan and her book tour, please visit her amazing blog!

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Amy's Notebook


This is such a neat idea for recycling old towels (@ Make & Do)

These beads made from newspaper are so amazing (@ A Storybook Life)

I love this idea for labeling binder clips to organize paperwork (@ Life Hacker)

I want to try this recipe for roasted brussels sprouts (@ Serious Eats)

This make-ahead monkey bread looks delicious (@ Bake & Shake)

These egg-shaped chalks look like a neat Easter addition to our baskets (@ Skip to My Lou)

I love this refashioned cardigan using an old thrift store tie- it is so inventive (@ Blissed Out)

I am going to make a fort for our kids out of a fitted sheet (@ Parent Hacks)

I am amazed at this super cute cake (@ Oh My Stinkin Heck)

I love this cute little dry erase board made from an envelope (@ Diary of Claudine Hellmuth)

These banana cookies look like they would be a huge hit in our house (@ Simply Recipes)

Another idea for a window mistreatment? I am in heaven (@ Nesting Place)

Here is another great use for hair clippers (@ Craft Apple)

I read this about library books and fell out of my chair (@ Parent Dish)

I would never think to use my mason jars for this (@ Life Hacker)

This Easter Egg Tree is simply stunning (@ Scribbit)

I love these ideas for things to use your old formula cans for (@ Motherhood for Dummies)

I would never think to make my own nonslip socks for the kids (@ Parent Hacks)

This sewing book prototype is so cool looking (@ Elsie Marley)

I love this sweet little smock and adorable pictures (@ Pleasant View Schoolhouse)

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

You Tube How-To: How To Shape Your Eyebrows

This is honestly the best tutorial I have seen on shaping and plucking your eyebrows. I wanted to post this to go along with our discussion yesterday on saving on beauty services. Eyebrow waxing or going to a salon to have your eyebrows shaped can tack on extra money to a strapped budget. This tutorial is a great introduction into learning how to do this yourself and keep that extra money in your pocket (or for your latte!)

I am a visual learner and this really helped me!

Sound Off: Do you shape your own eyebrows or have them professionally done? How much do you pay for this service (if you pay)? Please share!


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Baby Steps: Being Frugally Fashionable

One of the requests for our Baby Steps series was discussing ways that you can still be a fashionable mommy without spending a lot of money. I admit that I wish I was more fashionable, but I do the best I can with time constraints and a tight budget. I love to stay on top of the trends though and do indulge in a little shopping at "real stores" on occasion. I have to limit most of my shopping though to the thrift stores, but it is nice to get a couple of cute pieces to keep up with the trends and keep myself a little fashionable.


Here are a few stores that I have found to be reasonable for fashionable steals:

Old Navy- This store is great for everyday basics. T-shirts for layering, yoga pants, even their jeans are an excellent deal. I think of all the discount merchandise out there, Old Navy is probably the best for workmanship. I have only had a couple of things that have shown any issues (stitching coming undone in the shirts). Check this store for getting a nice basic wardrobe and some trendier pieces for the season.


(Navy Flutter Sleeve Wrap Top for $17.50, Old Navy)


Bitten- This line is carried over at Steve & Barry's, designed by the very stylish Sarah Jessica Parker. This past summer I got some really cute things from there. The prices can't be beat (for example, only $15 for jeans), but watch this line for workmanship and check what the materials are made from. My cute jean purchase turned out to be 100% cotton jeans so I should have went with a size higher. I do have to be more careful with these clothes when laundering them, but this is a great place to visit to stay up on the trends, without forking over an arm and a leg. Check this store for fashionable accessories (purses, shoes, hair accessories, & jewelry) and excellent deals on jackets and coats.

(Twill Trench Coat in Desert Sand for $8.98, Bitten)

Forever 21- This store seems geared towards a younger crowd, but they do offer some really great wardrobe pieces for a lot less than other stores. I recently purchased my spring coat there and love it, however, I did discover that their return policy is a little lacking. You will want to make sure to check these clothes very carefully before buying them. Check your buttons, check interior linings on jackets, and check the stitching on the legs and the insides of the shirts. Make sure to always try things on, otherwise, you are stuck with the merchandise if the tags have been removed. This is a great spot though to get a few trendy pieces without blowing your budget. Also, don't overlook this store if you have a cocktail party or a function to go to for your spouse. They have some cute party dresses for $20-30 that would be perfect for those types of occasions. I love this little black dress and think it would be a wonderful addition to any girl's wardrobe!


(
Crossover Capsleeve Dress in Black for $19.50, Forever 21)

Target- I used to snub my nose at their clothing because they did not offer very much, but times have changed. Target even offers great lines from designers that rival items you would get at those more expensive stores. Check this store for wardrobe basics, swimsuits, coats, handbags, and shoes. Visit their clearance racks often because they discount merchandise frequently. Take a pointer from Wisebread, and be sure to shop for your clothing based on their markdown schedules (women's clothing is marked down on Tuesdays). Freshly marked down clearance will offer the best selection at the best price!

(Short-Sleeve Stand-Up Collar Swing Jacket in Yellow for $24.99, Xhilaration)


Payless Shoes- I visit this store, just about every season, to keep up with the latest shoe trends. Payless carries American Eagle shoes that are super cheap, while keeping you looking like a trendy mom. I try to only shop when they run their BOGO sales and sometimes you can find a coupon lurking on the internet.

(Ava Mary Jane in Red for $17.99, Payless Shoes)

Other Stores- I did want to say a few words about more expensive stores and how they can still be a viable option, even when funds are more limited.

Although you might be on a budget, it never hurts to drop into a store and check their clearance racks. More than once, I have become pleasantly surprised by a store that I thought was out of my budget, but had more than a few items tucked in the back of their store. It always is such a happy surprise when you find they have plenty of great items on clearance that are right within my budget's sweet spot.

White House Black Market offers great items on their clearance rack and it has become one of my first stops when shopping for a special occasion dress. They deeply clearance their items and I have been able to walk out of their store with dresses that were 65% off of their original price and $80 shoes for only $19!

(
Whisp Chiffon Chemise in Black for $29.99 marked down from $78, White House Black Market)


Department stores can be a great place to find some really great deals. Watch your local paper for coupons and pair the coupons with the sales that they are running. Zoom over to the clearance racks and try on items from those racks first. The departments stores are trying to compete in the fashion world for their own spot so now you will find lines from Vera Wang (offered at Kohl's), a new line called American Living at JC Penney (which rivals the Ralph Lauren line of clothing), and Sears offers the Lands End line!

(Bisou Bisou Pant in White $29.99 marked down from $44, JC Penney)

Don't overlook those great discount stores like TJ Maxx & Marshalls for your clothes. You will want to check your items carefully as many of these items are "irregular" or may have some minor issue in the material. Try your items on and make sure they fit you well... and enjoy some extremely fashionable clothing for half or more off!

Finally, as I discussed last week, shopping through a rewards program, like Ebates, can save you even more money. Many stores are signed up with the program so you can get 2% or more cash back on your purchases and then apply your cash rewards to more pieces for your wardrobe. Consider it to be like the CVS rebates program, but the money gets put towards a prescription for your wardrobe needs!

Here are some hot spots to check for great fashion advice & deals:

The Budget Fashionista
The Space Between My Peers
Pennies In My Pocket
The Fashionable Housewife

Sound Off: Share what you would like to talk about next week (any topic on saving money is fair game for discussion!) What are some stores that you frequent for great deals on clothing and shoes?

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Spring Cleaning Your PC

I am very excited to share that I have a guest author that will be sharing on our site monthly to help all of our working mommas and to also help those of us that are..um, challenged technically! Nicole, from the Geek Squad team, will be tackling all of our questions each month about our computers and she wants to know what you are interested in. Have a story idea for Nicole? You can send it her way to techmom@momadvice.com.

To coincide with our new relationship with the company, the Geek Squad has generously offered to participate in a giveaway with us. This giveaway has a retail value of $169 and has just been listed on our product review site, The Motherloot. Hurry over there and get your entries in!

Many thanks to Nicole and her team for making this opportunity possible!

Spring Cleaning Your Computer by Nicole Conway

So it’s that glorious time of year again! Time to clear the clutter and cobwebs from their hiding places and tidy the home for the coming Spring. But what about your computer? Often overlooked, your computer also needs Spring cleaning, and some basic maintenance measures to keep it humming along. So what are some basic things that you can do?

Well first, print this page so that you can refer to it during the first part of the Spring Cleaning!!

Keeping the inside of your computer’s case clear of dust is important for the long life of your computer. It also saves electricity, because your computer does not have to work so hard to keep itself cool. The inside of your computer attracts a lot of fine dust. The build up of dust can clog the vents and fans, and eventually cause your computer to get too hot. This can cause some parts to stop working correctly. In order to clean it, you will probably want to bring it outside on a clear day. First, turn off your computer, and unplug the different wires and cables. Don’t worry! If you take a good close look at the back of your computer, you will find that everything only fits where it belongs. Putting it together again should only take a few minutes. Most computers have a side that opens easily, after a large screw is loosened on the back. Remove the side, being careful not to touch any of the parts or cards inside. You can buy a can of compressed air at nearly any major electronics store, do to the job.

Keeping an arm’s length away, spray the high pressured air from one side of the computer, pushing the dust to the other side and then out. Watch out! It may create quite a cloud of swirling dust devils and bunnies!!! Repeat the sweep a few times, until the inside of the case, and the vent holes of the sides, are relatively clear. You will notice that the can gets very cold. It is probably a good idea to keep this, like any other high pressured can, out of the reach of the little ones.

Slide the side of the case back on, and bring your clean computer back inside. This is a good time to dust out the space where the computer is normally kept, and to get those cables and wires wiped down, as well.

Now it’s time to plug everything back in. Look carefully at the plugs and wires. You will notice that they are mostly color coded, and some have different shapes. Almost everything in the back of a computer will only go where it is supposed to. The only exception is those flat USB plugs. These can be plugged into any USB ports.

Turn your computer back on, and now we will get down to some basic software maintenance.

So what makes up “software clutter?” Temp files, cookies, browsing history and the like. To start your clean up, we will start with the Control Panel. The Control Panel is the best place to start for safe computer maintenance. Click on the Start menu, and then choose Control Panel. Once this comes up, you will see a number of different options. First, we will choose Internet Options. When you click it, another window pops up, called “Internet Properties” , and you will see that there are some options there to choose from. First click on “Delete Cookies”, then on “Delete Files”, lastly on “Clear History”. This will remove some unnecessary temporary files that your computer saves. Once this is finished, you can close out of this by clicking “OK”.

Close out of the Control Panel, and let’s do some more clean up. If you click on “My Computer” it will open up, and you will see some of the things that makeup your computer. The main drive of your PC has the letter C assigned to it, and you can right click it to see a menu of options. At the very bottom is the Properties choice, which we will select here. A picture will come up, which tells you how much space is on your computer, and how much has been used already. Click on “Disk Cleanup” and let that little program do its thing. When it is finished scanning for potential free space, it will give you a tidy list of files you can clean out. To be on the safe side, make sure you only choose the Temporary types of files, and then click “OK” followed by “Yes” when it asks you if you are sure. Let this run, and then you can close out of it when it completes.

Lastly, now that we have cleaned out what isn’t needed, it is time to organize! So how do we organize the files in the computer? With a good “defrag” once a month. Defragging sounds like a complicated thing, but it is really a pretty simple thing. When your computer saves something, it breaks the file up into little pieces. Sometimes, the pieces are in different places, and all defrag does is move them all together so your computer can find them quicker!

If you right click on “My Computer” you can choose “Manage” from the menu. A new window will come up, with some pretty confusing things, but we will only need one. Click on Disk Defragmenter, and the main display window will change, to show you a picture of your computer’s storage space. When you click “Defragment” a bunch of red and blue lines will show up, and one or two blocks of green. The green will not move, but as you watch, the blue and red will move around until the red lines are almost completely gone, and the blue lines are more or less all together, in a blue block. If this is the first time that your computer is going through this, it may take a couple of hours! Don’t be alarmed. Afterwards, your computer will be able to find files quicker, and will run much better.

Although Spring Cleaning is a good time to start taking care of your computer, it is a good idea to do these basic preventative tasks once a month. This will keep your computer humming away, and give you longer life, better performance, and save you over the long term.

About Nicole Conway, Geek Squad Deputy Field Marshal
Conquering the tech terrain means knowing it's ok to run a sticky keyboard through the dishwasher (yes, just take it out before the hot drying cycle starts) or befriend your daughter on myspace so that you can monitor her activity (and every high school boy that goes near her).

When I'm not coaching on the soccer field, gardening, helping my three daughters (Emily 14, Erica 12, Erin 9) complete homework, or caring for my Beagle, 3 cats, 4 parakeets, and 2 hermit crabs (*catch breath), I'm hard at work as a Geek Squad Deputy Field Marshal. With a license to tech for three years now, I specialize in hardware repair, Networking, Virus and Spyware removal.


In other words, I'm that person you want to call when you're about to throw your computer out the window.

After 17 years of "another career" (too painful to talk about), I pursued my true passion for computers. I relish the challenge behind life's biggest annoyances -- the jammed printer, the keyboard soaked with juicy juice, the wireless router that doesn't route, the pile of wires your child devilishly jumbled up (need I say more?).

Go ahead, tell me if you have any issues (ones I can actually address). I should note I am a European History buff and cloth diaper sewer, so questions about Henry VIII and mending seams are not off limits!

Have a burning question about your computer? Send an email to techmom@momadvice.com and get answers!

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Frugal Hacks: Organizing Your Spring Cleaning Supplies

Today on Frugal Hacks, we are continuing our discussion on spring cleaning and starting at the beginning...with your cleaning supplies. I am sharing some of the tools that I use to help keep our home in shape and, of course, I am wondering what I might find in your caddy of goodies. Please head over there to share and check the site often for lots of great wallet-friendly ideas for your family!

I also wanted to thank everyone for entering our giveaway. We have a winner! Please check The Motherloot tomorrow for another new and exciting giveaway (valued at $169). I am lining the giveaways up left and right so make sure to check often for your chance to win and read reviews on some really great products.

Somehow I also managed to tape six more segments on saving money for my weekly WSBT feature, am putting together a very exciting guest post for tomorrow, and have an awesome interview that I am piecing together with an author (to be shared on Friday). I also finished a riveting piece for our Baby Steps series on staying fashionable on a budget (it literally took me three days) which I will be posting! I have lots of great stuff in the works for your reading pleasure so be sure to keep checking back here!

I am now throughly exhausted so I am going to try and squeeze in a nap before visiting with our family who have come here from out-of-town!

More from me tomorrow!

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WSBT-TV: Saving Money On Beauty Services

This morning on WSBT, I shared some tips for saving money on your beauty services. This is something that I talk about frequently because it is such a huge expense for families. If you have multiple children, haircuts alone can cost an arm and a leg, not to mention if you want to keep up with the beauty trends.

Here are some entries to go along with our topic this week:

Open Your Own Beauty Shop
Overcoming My Fears: Cutting Hair
Me Time

Sound Off: What are some ways that you have saved your family money on beauty/hair cuts? Do you have any special beauty recipes you use for your own pampering needs?

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Old School Momma Declares War

When I was a little girl, we had the best babysitter in the entire world, who took care of us when my mom worked. She was an elderly woman named Mrs. Davis and I worshiped the ground she walked on. She always brought with her a bag of goodies to keep us entertained. In her bag of tricks were Little Golden Books to read to us (from her own personal collection), a small bag of candy for each child, and a deck of cards to play games with us. Her deck was secured with a trusty rubber band that I loved to snap, snap, snap while she dealt the cards out. My memories of her and being with her make me a little misty eyed. Mrs. Davis passed away several years ago, but the memory of her and her bag of tricks lives in my heart.

When I visited Goodwill, I picked up a deck of cards for $.50 and have decided to begin teaching my son some of the games that were so fun for me when I was a kid. I thought I would share some of the games we tried and the rules for how to play them.

This game is guaranteed to last for centuries and was a great quiet game to keep him entertained while Emily napped. I used my popcorn popper and made us a batch of popcorn to be snacked on while we played.

We started with the game of, "War." This is an excellent game to start with because it teaches young children card ranking. A good age for this game is between 4-12 and the only equipment you need is a deck of cards...and a little stamina.

Rules for War:

Shuffle the cards well. Deal the entire deck, keeping all of the cards down and no peeking. To begin, both players turn their top cards simultaneously and place them side by side, face up, in the center. The one who plays the higher ranking card gets to keep both the cards (Aces are high in this game). These cards are added to the bottom of the winner's stack.

When both players turn over cards of the same rank (you have an Ace, they have an Ace), "war" is declared. Smaller children really get into this and we started to shout, "War!" out together. Each player then places the top three cards from his stack face down on the original card. Then each places a fourth card face up on top of the three face-down cards. The higher face-up card will win all of the ten cards. If these match you can declare a, "DOUBLE WAR!" (be sure to shout it for added enjoyment) and then the battle continues.

Whomever ends up with the entire deck of cards is the winner. A player can also win if their opponent runs out of cards in the middle of the war.

There are variations on War that I am looking forward to exploring, but I wanted to start with an easy game for a 5 year old.

You can also add in your own rules. Ethan decided that, "The loser gets lots of popcorn," but only when he lost. The winner also, "got more lemonade," but only when he won. When I lost though, I "just lost." Yes, those can be the challenges when playing with a 5 year old kid!

I tell you though... the game still hasn't lost its novelty to me and I thought fondly of Mrs. Davis and my special time with her!

Sound Off: What was your favorite game growing up?

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Edited Redbox Code

That Redbox code was incorrect! In my haste to get out the door and get the code up, I accidentally missed a number. The code is 27GH4V

Please follow the directions from earlier and I apologize for the confusion!

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Redbox Code 03.03.08

Today's free code for a Redbox movie is 27GH4V. This code is good for one free movie and you can use it until midnight tonight. Enjoy a free family movie together!

Side Notes:

- If you want to rent more than one movie for free, bring more than one credit/debit card. You can use the same promotional code, you just will need different cards to charge it to. The charge will be zero as long as you return your movie on time for the next day.

- When entering in your free movie code, you need to enter it FIRST before picking the movie. On the very first screen, click the, "Rent with Promo." Enter in the above code and then make your selection- the amount should then total zero.

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Sloppy Joes & Oven Fries

I always love to try out new recipes and wanted to give a new recipe for Sloppy Joes a shot. These sandwiches were absolutely delicious. I have made this recipe twice and adjusted the ratios to our liking. This ground beef mixture has just a little bit of tang, with a whole lot of tomato-y goodness.

I served these on my homemade hamburger buns, with a side of these Seasoned Baked Potato Wedges, that I had been dying to try (from Tammy's Recipes)

The potato wedges were equally delicious and a perfect balance of spices. They were crispy and not soggy, which I find to be quite important in an order of fries. Best of all, they were a hit with the whole family!

Yummy Sloppy Joes (adapted from Recipezaar)

1 lb ground beef
1 cup chopped onions (I omitted these because I don't like onions)
1 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce


In a large skillet, brown beef with onions (make sure to drain or rinse your meat after this step). Mix the rest of the ingredients together. Add to beef and onions. Cook for 1 hour over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Serve on warm hamburger buns.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

New Article: Budget-Minded Easter Celebrations

Hi Amy -

You are doing a great job with the blog! I really enjoy it!


Here's an idea for the (near) future - how about something on Easter clothing for kids? I'm debating whether to keep up with the tradition of my upbringing of buying a new Easter dress for my daughter each year (she is 3) and a new dress shirt for my son (he is 6). It is a fun tradition - they could care less, but I enjoy it. However, it is tricky with Easter being early this year to dress them warmly and yet use the clothing the remainder of the Spring and summer.

Just some random thoughts on that if you are ever searching for a topic - what do you do? Will you be sharing some Easter ideas in the coming weeks?


Thanks-
B.

Here, by request, is a new article on enjoying a fun & frugal Easter with your family. I tried to compile all of the ideas that we have used and researched some new ways that we could save our family in the future years.

I hope you enjoy the article and I thank you for all of your fabulous suggestions for what to write about. It really helps me so please continue sharing your ideas and emailing them to me at amy@momadvice.com.

Sound Off: As we all know, Easter is not about spending money at all, but there are many special traditions that families engage in for the holiday. What are some of your special traditions or ways that you have found to celebrate the holiday inexpensively? Do you buy a special Easter outfit for your children each year? Please share!

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